Line closures and funding cuts among key suggestions
TRANSPORT & ENVIRONMENT:CLOSURE OF three railway lines, more tolls on roads and an end to Exchequer support for such initiatives as green schools, rural public transport and Rapid programmes in disadvantaged areas are among the measures with environmental implications.
Although no cuts are proposed in the national roadbuilding programme, the report recommends the Government should consider closing three “lightly used” rail lines – Limerick Junction- Rosslare, the Nenagh line and Manulla Junction-Ballina. These rail lines “should be closed and replacement bus services provided . . . at less cost to the Exchequer”. However, the report ignores that one of the main users of the Ballina line is Coca Cola – it would have to use road transport.
It also recommends the sale of the Bus Éireann profitable inter-urban Expressway service, saying this would realise a “once-off cash windfall” – although it acknowledges this would remove a means of cross-subsidising loss-making services.
The report advocates an end to the “public service obligation” payments for regional air services as well as operational grants for regional airports, as the Exchequer “is backing the provision of the other new, much improved transport links”.
Referring to the rural transport programme, the report says Exchequer aid should be eliminated “given the availability of private sector bus alternatives, the high level of car ownership and the underutilisation of synergies with other publicly-funded local transport”. On tolls, it is “strongly of the view” that such road pricing should be introduced in tandem with the delivery of better public transport, both for revenue-raising purposes and as a demand management tool.
An annual cut of €20 million on road maintenance or improvement is also proposed, on the basis the “extensive capital investment programme” over the past decade for motorways and other roads meant fewer repairs are needed.
Dealing with green schools, it says: “The State does not need a special programme of €10 million over five years to convince school children and their parents to walk to and from school rather than drive. There must be alternative, cheaper ways to achieve the outcome.”