Controversial motorway programme to continue

 

Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats have made it clear that there will be no rowing back from the outgoing government's controversial motorway programme.

In one of the shortest sections in their agreed programme they say they will "fully implement the national roads programme provided for in the National Development Plan" as well as continue with the investment in non-national roads.

What reservations the PDs had about the motorways, especially given their escalating cost - now estimated at €12 million, or double the 1999 NDP figure - and the loss of some 5,000 acres of agricultural land, Fianna Fáil has won the argument.

The programme pledges to implement "an integrated transport policy, designed as far as possible to overcome existing delays, bottlenecks and congestion and to provide alternative choice by alternative modes of transport" - the phraseology of FF's manifesto.

As anticipated, an integrated Department of Transport is to be established with responsibility for the national roads programme, aviation and public transport.

The 1932 Road Transport Act is to be replaced by "modernised legislation" to allow freer access to the bus market by private operators. Integrated ticketing and smart-card technologies allowing for differential pricing will also be introduced.

The new government will introduce legislation to establish a Greater Dublin Land Use and Transport Authority, with a "strong mandate", as well as the promised independent Railway Safety Authority and "full support" for the new Railway Procurement Agency.

Iarnród Éireann is to be established as an independent State company and there will also be a strategic rail review to provide a blueprint for future development of the railways. Improvements to mainline rail services and rolling stock will continue.

In Dublin, the DART and outer suburban lines will be upgraded and the proposed metro developed on a public-private partnership basis "making the maximum use of private finance and achieving a link to Dublin Airport by 2007".

But while the Luas light rail lines serving Tallaght and Sandyford are to be introduced, no commitment is given to extending Luas to serve other areas, and no mention is made of the Dublin Transportation Office's "Platform for Change" strategy.

Further progress is promised to upgrade the bus fleet in Dublin and elsewhere.

Recognising the importance of competitive access transport and the need to maintain a national airline, the programme pledges to proceed "without delay" with Pier D at Dublin Airport and to examine proposals for a new terminal there, independent of Aer Rianta. Shannon and Cork airports are also to be given more autonomy.