Planes, Trains and Automobiles II

This post was written by Colm McCarthy

Philip Lane posted on this topic earlier in the week and it was my subject in this week’s Farmers Journal too:

Without breaking the speed limit, it is now possible to drive from the outskirts of Dublin to Cork’s Dunkettle roundabout in a little over two hours. Similar time savings have been made possible on the other inter-city routes and the country has, for practical purposes, become smaller. The improvement of the national road network is one of the few unambiguous dividends from the bubble. 

 

On the busiest routes between the capital and the main provincial centres, car journeys are just one option: you can also fly, take the train or catch a bus. The improved road network is good news for bus operators, who can now offer a far better public transport alternative to the car. But it is very bad news for internal air services and for the loss-making Irish Rail. These two options have become markedly less competitive with either car or bus, an outcome which was both predictable and predicted. A rational government would have planned for increased reliance on inter-urban bus services and would have avoided costly, and pointless, subsidies to air and rail services that were bound to lose popularity as motorway development favoured car and bus. There is no absolute need for four different ways of getting to Cork.

 

Rationality however dawns slowly in the make-believe world of Irish transport policy. The government has presided over a massive investment programme in the railway. No less than €2.5 billion has been spent on mainline rail investment over the last decade. The result is that Irish Rail has provided large increases in frequency and capacity despite the obvious threat to passenger numbers. On Dublin-Cork, fifteen trains per day now operate, compared to half that number a decade ago. They offer journey times that are now quite uncompetitive with the car.

 

Air services between Dublin and Cork are not provided by a state-subsidised operator and the reaction has been very different. There will shortly be no scheduled service at all between Cork and Dublin. Ryanair have pulled out, following previous exits by Aer Lingus and Aer Arann. At one stage there were up to a dozen flights a day between the two cities. Ryanair cited passenger migration to the new motorway as a principal factor in its withdrawal announcement.

 

All three airlines which have operated Dublin-Cork services over the years are commercial companies which cannot sustain loss-making routes and their decisions make perfect sense. What precisely is the point though in pouring €2.5 billion into rail investment when a motorway network connecting the same towns and cities is under construction? Did nobody in the Department of Transport foresee what was going to happen?

 

In addition to enormous chunks of free investment capital, the railway enjoys large operating subsidies and a highly restrictive licensing regime for competing bus services. If you fancy running an express bus from Cork to Dublin, without subsidy, forget it. You will not be granted a license. Irish Rail continue, remarkably, to campaign for yet more capital ‘investment’ in the railway - on the grounds that it has become less competitive on inter-urban routes!

 

The government has wisely curtailed capital spending and withdrawn operating subsidies at some of the regional airports, of which far too many were built. The same logic now needs to be applied to the railway. The sheer expense of rail-based public transport systems is invisible to the travelling public, who pay only a portion of the operating cost in fares and none of the capital cost. But the bills of course arrive at the door of the Exchequer.

 

Over the next few weeks, ministers will resume their consideration of the options for cutting expenditure in the years ahead and should assess with a jaundiced eye the rail schemes for Dublin. The most notorious of these is Metro North, a plan for an underground railway through Mr. Ahern’s former Northside constituency serving Dublin Airport. This scheme has been in the plans for many years even though no cost estimate is available. The construction bill would run to several billions, plus the inevitable operating losses. All of this despite the fact that Dublin Airport is easily accessible as things stand, with a road tunnel, built at a cost of €700 million, providing a new link from the city and non-Dublin users able to use the upgraded M50.  

 

There are also schemes to build a new underground railway in the city centre and plans for more tram lines. Sizeable sums have already been spent on designing and planning these projects. But there has been a noticeable drop in traffic congestion in the city recently and parking is easier. The government is flat broke and all of these fancy rail investment schemes should now be put on the long finger, or just abandoned altogether. It is not clear they ever made sense, even when we thought we could afford them.  

87 Responses to “Planes, Trains and Automobiles II”

  1. David O'Donnell Says:

    ‘There is no absolute need for four different ways of getting to Cork. …’

    Looks like it might be time to convene a jamboree of the tribal leaders … Joyce could figure out billions of ways of getting to Dublin.

  2. Kevin Lyda Says:

    As someone who regularly goes between Dublin and Galway I sincerely hope your advice is ignored. The bus is OK, but the train is far superior. I get a comfortable seat, a table for my laptop and power. The ride is far smoother and far more conducive to work. Emails, code and research are all much more doable on a train than any form of public transport. The closest equivalent is first class on a long-haul flight.

    It would be nice if the network could be expanded to connect Cork, Limerick, Galway and Sligo. It would also be nice if more tracks were laid to allow for express trains between those cities and Dublin. There’s no reason there couldn’t be one hour rail service between Dublin and Galway for instance.

    At a time when even America is expanding its rail network, short-sighted imagination-poor thinking is not what we need in this country.

  3. The Dork of Cork Says:

    What is the total yearly cost of the depreciation in the Irish private car fleet ?
    A study of this must be factored into the true cost of the Irish private car fetish that has dominated Irish civil servent thinking pre & post Ford , and also of course the loss of internal consumption due to the still massive import of oil for transport in this country.

    Externalities is a bitch I know and some economists like to just look at the goverment fiscal figures to give them a religious certainty in life but as they say sometimes its more complicated then that.
    This fiscal sinning sermon is getting tiresome.

  4. Winston Smith Says:

    Irish Transport Policy going forward ….

    One way of making the rail and planes more competitive is to tax the road ….. for the sake of the railways and airports, more road tolls please!!

    What about the latest plan to have a Dart to the airport (since the Metro North is “on hold”) ….. that should put a stop to too successful private Air Coach operator (who by way gives free travel to old age pensioners whereas pensioners have to pay on the public 747 Dublin Bus)!!

  5. grumpy Says:

    @Kevin L

    The USA can borrow however much it likes for more very little. It can borrow for the rate of expected inflation plus nothing - so in real terms it can effectively borrow whatever it likes for nothing, currently.

    Ireland is arguably bankrupt in the view of the people who it would have to borrow the money from top build the tracks etc. It is currently not able to borrow for projects like these. It can only just borrow from the official funders to keep its connected and protected sectors in the style to which they became accustomed during a ridiculous bubble.

  6. Seafoid Says:

    Would colm ’s articles in the farmer’s journal qualify as macro na feirme?

  7. Anon Says:

    A rational government would have planned for increased reliance on inter-urban bus services and would have avoided costly, and pointless, subsidies to air and rail services

    The confident assertion of ideology. And how much, exactly, have been both the ‘headline’ and externalised costs of this pampering of King Car? Or does the road network get built for free, and petroleum products magically appear in the pumps?

  8. The Dork of Cork Says:

    The 1970s inflation was solved by shutting down oil fired power plants.

    This inflationary depression can only be solved by eliminating the private car from much of our transport needs.
    I don’t think Irish economists get it really - once there was 9 million working Bicycles in Beijing and Chinese steam trains burning once cheap coal in their Hinterland - now not so much.
    Once the west burned a large % of the worlds oil in their private cars - the 80s children are resisting the changeover as they like their chariots - to do this they are destroying the very fabric of our civilisation by curtailing policing , shutting down hospitals etc.
    This is appalling - we need not suffer such torture so that both males & females of the species can continue to drive their grossly inefficient phallic symbols.
    THE COSTS OF PRIVATE CARS DO NOT SHOW UP IN GOVERMENT BOOKS FOR THE MOST PART - but that does not mean it is not there.
    Its shadow is the lack of spending on real end use consumption rather then GDP enhancing useless primary consumption.
    Thats why we are getting inflation in a depression - the energy is not flowing down to consumers - they are just burning the stuff with no rhyme or reason.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTy3WA0Pq8M

  9. desmond brennan Says:

    Thanks to the Greens and An Taisce, Ireland’s urban model is ‘low density sprawl’ , all this will ever be suited to is road transport. Irish Rail in particular are a dinosaur, and should be done away with.

  10. The Dork of Cork Says:

    Remember this gem from a few years back ?

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/special/2006/ncb/index.pdf

    However despite the comedic nature of the study chapter 7 gives some useful stats of household expenditure for the time……

    Vehicle expenditure not including traveling expenses was higher then the Mortgage and insurance costs for the productive sectors of society……

    Something is very wrong with the structure & fabric of the country when transport expenses were even higher then the inflated mortgages of that time.
    Traveling expenses have very much increased since that time - I would like to see the modern figures.
    However people are still living out in the sticks and exporting their earned consumption to Arabia and elsewhere.
    A holistic understanding of the geographic economy is needed here , not more 1980s solutions to problems that were so much different then today.

    Back then there was a GLOBAL OIL GLUT - no such glut exists today - Colm wants to restore the credit capacity of the banks so that they can lend so customers can buy cars!!!!!
    What fantasy world is he living in.
    Dallas was cancelled 20 years ago - South Fork is here & everywhere and is now a Irish soap opera of almost unbelivable absurdity.

  11. desmond brennan Says:

    When viewing travel expenses, you need to be cautious, as elements in the thieving public sector(including quangos) used to managed astonishing mileage and subsistence claims.

  12. The Dork of Cork Says:

    @Desmond
    I was never a fan of most green policies since they had a almost wilful lack of awareness of the credit system which is highly unusual for a party that wants to save the planet but their transport policey was for the most part enlightened - you also cannot blame the Greens and An Taisce for our planning policey.
    Your statement is a absurdity and will not give your privatisation of the remaing utilties plans much credibility
    This willful destruction of the remaining bits of the economy so that banks can be in a position to give credit opium again is highly disturbing - Irish economists seem to have got the role of money creation deliberately back to front for some funny reason.
    I hope they are just ignorent innocents abroad on a foregin credit sea.

  13. Ossian Smyth Says:

    In particular, the proposal to construct an underground railway system in Dublin, one of the lowest density cities in this part of the world, seems premature

    C McCarthy, 1978

    Urban rail capital cost is high but the marginal cost of adding new rail passengers can be lower than the marginal cost of putting an extra car on the road when externalities are accounted for.

  14. Kevin Lyda Says:

    @grumpy If we quit spending billions on bailing out the banks we’d have plenty for capital investment. In addition have you seen Irish gov’t bond rates? They’re dropping. Apparently more are willing to invest than you think.

    Colm’s car fetish is truly bizarre. Cars are great, but modern societies need efficient, reliable public transit. Buses ain’t it, sorry. Either we get the will to invest in our future or our future is going to be bleak.

  15. Niall Says:

    I’ll second Kevin here. While cost/benefit analysis predicated on the circumstances of the moment has a vital role in public policy, deprecating rail transport at this stage purely on the anecdata that it’s easier to park seems completely barmy to me. It’s completely ignoring our overwhelming dependence on oil to get around. At least the state can expect to get significant discounts when buying fuel in bulk, but ordinary punters at the pump will find life exceptionally difficult as the prices creep up and up over time. Yet at every stage the bean counters will say it’s not worth it. The oil is running out, people. The sooner we get as much of an electric mass transit system as we can, the better. It’ll be moving by burning oil in the short-term, but at least it’s _possible_ to run it on some useful combination of renewables in the future. Anything else is going to be absolute misery for almost everyone.

  16. bill hobbs Says:

    Toys for boys

  17. The Dork of Cork Says:

    The Train set anoraks Vs The Dinky Dunces debate……………………we are F$£ked
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnS4cQWeYxU

  18. ObsessiveMathsFreak Says:

    The primary problem here is that the train engines in the country are desperately slow. I believe the newest models–flown in by Antonov–have a maximum speed of about 100mph. Wooooosh! Meanwhile, the 30 year old TGV has an average speed of about 170 mph on some routes.

    However, the trains can be as frequent or as fast as they like, but if a return ticket between Cork and Dublin costs the guts of €100, people are going to take the car, particularly given the poor intracity public transport. Imagine taking the whole family up to the all Ireland tomorrow. Train +€400, Car ~€100. This isn’t a difficult decision for most.

    To end on an anecdote, I vividly recall making the mistake a few years ago of hopping on the Luas in O’Connell street at around quarter past 5 to get the 6 o’clock train in Heuston station(2km distant). When the Luas finally disgorged its unfortunate sardines at the station, all ran quickly inside just in time to see their train lumber off on its way outside the pale. That doesn’t happen with a car I can tell you.

  19. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    @Desmond Brennan
    “Thanks to …. An Taisce, Ireland’s urban model is ‘low density sprawl’”

    Nothing of the sort. An Taisce lobbied for policies to curtail low density sprawl.

    @OMF
    It is not that the engines aren’t capable of decent speeds, it is that the track are not safe enough.

  20. desmond brennan Says:

    @KoB
    An Taisce persistently lobbied against significiant hi-rise in Dublin city centre, and turned half the streets and skyline into museums to boot.

    They were luddites, who ensured the only growth option was sprawl. And oddly, that suited our developers as engineering/architects fees/lead time for high rise was a lot more challenging.

    An Taisce and the Greens bear large responsibility for the fiasco of the Dublin sprawl, not that they’ll ever admit it.

  21. EWI Says:

    @ Ossian Smith

    Bingo.

  22. Michael Hennigan - Finfacts Says:

    Colm,

    You’re long enough in the tooth to recall the upgrade of the DART in the early 1980s, which the likes of Seán Barrett and Vincent Browne dismissed as for “the rich in South Dublin.”

    The Metro North project merits the knackers’ yard; for a business person on an intercity day trip who values their time (in particular time for thinking), the train should be the option.

    @ OMF

    So it’s ‘ici premier classe’ for you!

  23. The Dork of Cork Says:

    @Obsessive
    Higher speed = higher fuel costs ., the French can go 200MPH because they have a surplus of baseload Nuclear energy.
    The French strategic rail plan went hand in hand with the Nuclear industry - besides our population density cannot justify such expenditure , high speed rail is more of a competitor of short haul flights which are no longer viable in this country.
    Tax must be raised to take consumption out of the system - do you want them to tax your wages or your car use ?
    Until the average middleclass person walks or gets the bus to the supermarket and phones a taxi home our defecit will always be problematic

  24. Garry Says:

    Funny that Mr McCarty never seems to analyze the effectiveness of the CAP and/or Single Farm Payments and other schemes in his little rants in the Farmers Journal.

    Some farmers getting 100k a year tax free in a country ran by the IMF.

    Don’t bite the hand that feeds and all that, though Im wondering what would he write if both the IFA and the IMF were paying for the report… I suppose something like a household charge/residential property tax, but on no account tax other property.

  25. Jim Says:

    So, state spending on roads is much-needed ‘improvement’, state spending on rail is ‘pointless subsidy’, and there are no such things as transport externalities. Did I leave anything out?

  26. isaac Says:

    From the outskirst of Dublin to the Jack Lynch tunnel in just over two hours? Maybe. But most people are not going to the outskirts of Dublin or the Jack Lynch tunnel, they need to get to the city centre, which is where the train takes them in 2 hours 40 minutes.

    With the present cost of fuel, even paying the full price of train ticket saves money on the trip to Dublin, not to mention the chance to get some work done and not be worn out from driving when you arrive. And the price of fuel is set to rise. The bus service operated by bus eireann takes 4 hours 25 minutes from Cork to Dublin. Far too long for most people. Aircoach takes 4 hours 15 minutes.

    With a bit of luck, the blinkered views of this article will be ignored. Subsidies for financial institutions and builders are fine, according to this kind of analysis, but not for public infrastructure.

  27. The Dork of Cork Says:

    @Desmond
    20% + credit growth a year combined with bankers who considered property assets safe created our urban sprawl - Taisce was only a reflex action to this monetory malice.

    We could have created a Dublin to Holyhead & Rosslare to Fishguard tunnel with the amount of malinvested credit concrete in the system.

    Although Irish rail might have wasted the investment by only considering the ports as a legitimate railhead and thus only offering communting services to alighting high speed passengers……………………….

  28. grumpy Says:

    @Kevin

    “If we quit spending billions on bailing out the banks we’d have plenty for capital investment. In addition have you seen Irish gov’t bond rates? They’re dropping. Apparently more are willing to invest than you think.”

    I think investors are willing to invest in existing 10year loan to Ireland at about 8.5% because that is a fact.

    ECB inflation targeting is almost guaranteed to keep inflation below 2%. It will probably be lower.

    Ireland has a “because we’re worth it ” problem. I think trains are a much better idea than cars for city centre to city centre travel, but does it make any sense to borrow money when it is expensive (6 or 7 % real vs almost zero for the USA) to build nice items of infrastructure?

    The Irish queued up to buy houses festooned with granite worktops and marble floors regardless of the price.

    I mention “existing loans” because it is the case that if Ireland went to the market to borrow at prevailing rates, analysts would declare them irrational and the market rate for even existing debt would soar.

    As for quitting bailing out the banks, its getting a bit late to do so since they are now supposedly over-capitalised already. But if you can find a way to get them wound down you will certainly have my support.

  29. Paul Hunt Says:

    I commented on the ’super-industry’ that produces a rich and deep layer of bullshit in the energy sector:
    http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2011/09/02/irish-energy-economics/#comment-166050

    But it is equally, if not more relevant, here.

  30. Sporthog Says:

    Interesting debate and thanks to Mr Colm McCarthy.

    Just one point struck me, is the number of Northern Ireland registered cars in the car parks of Dublin Airport.

    A lot of talk is focused on the proposed rail / dart / metro link between Dublin Airport and Dublin City Centre.

    Would it not be more inclusive / strategic for the existing Dublin to Belfast rail line to be modified, so that it would stop at Dublin Airport and then continue on to Belfast?

    Dublin airport is already serving all of Ireland, not just the ROI. Dublin Airport would then compete more directly against airports in Belfast.

    Taking a family to travel to Dublin Airport by rail might just be more competive as one then avoids parking charges for the time one is away on holidays.

  31. Ceterisparibus Says:

    It’s truly amazing that a lot of people in Ireland continue to believe that we have money to invest in grandiose schemes like the one proposed yesterday to Dublin Airport. As semi public servants have they nothing better to do than propose schemes that haven’t a snowballs chance in hell of being funded.
    As Grumpy points out speculators are prepared to purchase Irish Government bonds in the secondary market at around 8.5% and interestingly, some of the purchasers have been Irish Banks according to Cliff Taylor in the SBP.
    Even the IT seem to behind the curve in assessing what is happening in the real world. In an article today they say “The last thing Ireland needs is for the euro crisis to flare up again. The calming of that crisis in recent weeks is a great relief. ”
    I have news for them. The crisis has flared up again and Greek one year yields yesterday hit 72.06% which to my mind guarantees default. Markets worldwide tanked yesterday. There can be little doubt that growth is stalled.
    The defecit this year will be about twenty thousand million. Never mind that some of it went to banks. It gone. Next year we are programmed to have another large defecit and again the following year, leading to an eventual debt mountain of 200 to 250 billion depending on which figure you believe.
    And some idiot thinks it’s a good idea to spend two hundred million on a scheme to get travellers to Dublin Airport at probably a slower pace than currently available through the tunnel.
    It’s time to get real lads and maybe concentrate on how we are going to pay back that debt mountain. It won’t disappear…or will it?

  32. Ceterisparibus Says:

    @Paul Hunt
    +1000
    it’s worth repeating part of your previous post…
    “But, instead, we have an entire ’super-industry’ of civil servants, semi-state executives, academic and public, semi-state and private sector researchers, analysts and planners, regulators, consultants, industry associations, trades union officials and PR operatives all purveying, in Harry Franfurt’s words, “an indifference to truth” and seeking to identify and justify some fix or fiddle (or combination of fixes and fiddles) that they perceive will benefit them (or those they represent), but which, inevitably, will leave the majority of citizens and the economy worse off. (The op-ed we are discussing was written by a relatively senior ‘operative’ in this ’super-industry”

  33. The Dork of Cork Says:

    @Ceterisparbis
    It will disappear , but one consequence of this will be the revaluation of input costs through possible wage deflation in Europe and or inflation of commodities in the Anglo world.
    I.E. - wage deflation is actually real inflation.
    Europes 2% consumer inflation fetish is the mechanism to give poltical legitimacy to its currency as oil consumption falls dramatically.
    I prefer a less brutal radical change of tax policey / conversion of credit money to goverment money but the Euro is a bankers currency - they will use Gold to sterilize their debt transactions.
    The present monetory system is not working - its investments have been net negative for a decade or more , primarily due to the car dependent / consumer goods dollar / oil bubble.
    Have you ever heard of the creditability inflation concept ?
    Its time has passed.
    fofoa.blogspot.com/2010/08/credibility-inflation.html

  34. Paul Hunt Says:

    @cet.par.

    Thank you. I doubt my comments will get much currency; those at whom they are directed are very thin-skinned. They have no experience of - or no need to engage in - the cut and thrust of adversarial disputation based on evidence and analysis. And the country is too darned small; this ’super-industry’ provides a huge volume of well-rewarded employment and everyone has a family member, or a relative, or a friend or acquaintance who works in it.

    And I’m at pains to emphasise that this ’super-industry’ is not a conspiracy against the majority of ordinary citizens. Those whom I describe as the forces of darkness and reaction (FODAR) are those who direct this ’super-industry’ and who accumulated considerable power, profit and prestige during the bubble years. They are seeking to defend this accumulation - or, at least, to minimise the extent to which it is reduced. They are perfectly entitled to seek to do this - and to commission whatever resources they believe are required.

    But they are not entitled to monopolise public resources in this effort. All I want to see is for sufficient public resource to be extracted from their clutches to conduct the independent analysis and research that is required to counter the bullshit they - and those whom they retain - spout.

    The FODAR will not amend their ways; why should they? Those whom they direct, retain or commission in the ’super-industry’ have no incentive to reveal that what they are purveying is bullshit - and every incentive not to. Most ordinary citizens are well aware that they are on the receiving end of this bullshit, but, despite the extent to which their trust in politicians, the clergy and bankers has been damaged, they are not aware of the complexity of the legal, commerical and regulatory mechanisms that are damaging their interests and are, perhaps, reluctant to accept the extent to which they are being inundated in bullshit.

    Unfortunately it is for TDs to recognise the extent to which they too are being fed bullshit and to take steps to demand something more wholesome. And that’s where my argument meets an abrupt and fatal end. Anyone who believes that TDs might take an initiative, collectively, that would be unambiguously in the interests of the citizens who elected them really needs his/her head examined.

  35. Sporthog Says:

    @ Ceterisparbis,

    Your comments about Greece have always got my attention. As you say the situtation is very serious, however leaving the euro is one thing, but I fear what will happen to Greece if the communists / anacharists get control. Perhaps the military will step in and take over and stabilise the situation, who knows.

    Unfortunately I have heard that the situation with Spain is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Due to the political complexity (17 Autonomous regions) the regional debt is perhaps 10 times higher than the state debt. From what I have been told, Spain will definetly leave the euro also.

    @ Paul Hunt,

    The FODAR you refer to is nothing new, it happens in all departments / sectors where managers compete for funds to expand their patch / empire. What I find interesting is your comment about politicians standing up to the FODAR and recognising rubbish when they see it.

    I’ve mentioned before on this site that as long as our democratic system continues to elect politicians on the basis of votes rather than votes and qualifications then we will continue to get a weak political class who pander to the mob. As for the media, what do they care, they love controversy, good and bad.

    Other commentators on this site have also mentioned distaste of the influence of the FODAR on politicans. However when asked what requires to change, nothing was put forward.

    So what would be your suggestion, a public forum / debating hall where various issues are discussed in professional detail? Or changing the democratic system from one of votes to votes + qualifications / track record or something else entirely?

  36. Frank Galton Says:

    Those roads were built on PPP deals whose terms are still unclear and which were analyzed and negotiated on our side by the same department of finance that was so overmatched in 2008 — do we think their capacity was any better when they were all in high “Because we’re worth it” mode in early-mid 2000s?

    Also, I hope seafoid’s witticism above is getting due attention.

  37. Paul Hunt Says:

    @Sporthog,

    You are quite correct. There is nothing unnatural or conspiratorial about the behaviour of the FODAR. It has happened and continues to happen at all times and in all places. But the legitimate pursuit of their interests conflicts with the common good and then we are into issues of governance. To stay ‘on-topic’ I am focusing on the requirement for independent, publicly-funded research and analysis to counter the bullshit propogated.

    We’ve had two interesting discussions on this issue on this board many moons ago - which also touched on some of the politcial and constititional issues.

    http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2009/04/13/skills-deficits/

    http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2009/07/07/norman-glass/

    A majority of TDs elect a government, but they have as much, if not more, responsibility to scrutinise government (and the entire government machine) and to hold it to account as do the opposition TDs. And to do this they need to have sufficient resources to commission the necessary advice, analysis and research and the powers to force ministers and representatives of the government machine to enter into adversarial disputation before their cttees.

    My suggestion is that some of the policy formulation resources in government departments should be extracted and assigned permanently to the Oireachtas and that the ESRI should be re-constituted as a public policy reasearch body fully-funded by, and working solely for, the Oireachtas. We might then have the skills, resources and competence to counter the bullshit that the FODAR propogate.

  38. Sporthog Says:

    @ Paul Hunt,

    Thank you, sounds like a reasonable suggestion without breaking the bank.

  39. michael burke Says:

    “The government has presided over a massive investment programme in the railway. No less than €2.5 billion has been spent on mainline rail investment over the last decade”

    If that’s a ‘massive’ figure, how to describe the €2.5bn investment on road construction in 2008 alone, or the €3bn spent in 2007?

    CIE are correct, they have become less competitive because they are starved of investment. Since containerisation has become the principle mode of international transport for most goods, it is highly damaging to competitiveness that the entirety of goods to/from Irish ports are delivered by bottle-necking road transport.

    Virtually no freight is delivered by rail in Ireland. A ‘massive’ investment pogramme, say half that put into roads, would yield significant benefits to productivity and to competitiveness.

  40. Mark Dowling Says:

    The 100mph locomotives can also haul 12 or more HGV loads of exports from Ballina to Waterford or Dublin Ports. Power cars which go north of these maximum speeds are rarely “dual use”.

    Clearly some of the network is difficult to sustain - the Limerick-Roscrea route has been a joke for years and is now being crucified by the M7 and their “sister company” rolling out express routes. On the other hand the Cork-Dublin route is not merely point to point but also the spine of the network - improvements to it benefit (partially or fully) services to Galway, Waterford, Limerick, Mayo and Kerry.

    While megaprojects must clearly be long fingered, retention of expertise demands at least some minor projects continue with low but ringfenced funding made available - loss of corporate memory is how stuff like Broadmeadow Viaduct happened. Merger of some construction/engineering/planning functions with NRA should also be put on the table - after all dividing infrastructure from train operations is only delayed by a derogation from EU Directives as it stands.

    Two things I think we could look at in the context of the existing services:
    1. Move the NIR/IR Enterprise joint service into a standalone entity. It is dependent on both NIR and IR sanctioning investment - better to have one entity able to decide its own commercial strategy. It could also keep both track operators honest in how previous Dublin-Belfast investment has been left to degrade
    2. Find a way of enticing lease operators into the all-Ireland market. Sale and leaseback of rolling stock may be one way to bring external capital into the Irish rail market in order to fund necessary improvements in Greater Dublin capacity such as eliminating level crossings on Maynooth line and more passing track west of Hazelhatch.

  41. Brian Mercer Says:

    “A rational government would have planned for increased reliance on inter-urban bus services and would have avoided costly, and pointless, subsidies to air and rail services that were bound to lose popularity as motorway development favoured car and bus. There is no absolute need for four different ways of getting to Cork.”

    Governments are composed of politicians who make political decisions not rational ones.

    We need to make the most effective and efficient use of existing transport infrastructure.

    Subsidies for the well off to use planes and trains are a disgrace even if they are more comfortable.

    Buses are cheap to use, flexible in that that they can be express or multi stop and with more competition could offer the most cost effective way of getting from A to B. The roads/motorways are already built lets use them to best advantage.

  42. Darren Snow Says:

    It’s a fair point to highlight the restrictions on bus routes especially between Dublin and Cork, this is madness. But in an post that criticises lack of planning in the past it seems strange to suggest that we allow the train network atrophy to short term market forces when oil is running out. I wager electric trains will be more competitive than electric cars.

  43. Ceterisparibus Says:

    @Sporthog
    I have not followed Spain much but did see unemployment figures of 40% for young people. This must be fertile ground for protest. I understood that the BOS kept their banks on a tighter leash but as you say, the regional gOvernments could be a minefield. I still believe that Greece will be the catalyst for a major upheaval in Euroland and would regard the resignation of the Budget Office director, having delivered a damning report on the true state of their finances and adjustments, as confirmation that this view is accurate. I do not expect the Troika inspectors to return to Greece. The withdrawal seems a diplomatic means of saying…your on your own boys, let us know when you accept our analysis.

    @ Paul Hunt
    On the topic of bullshit…did you see Brenden Keenan’s article in the Indo today. He even reprinted the FT article.

  44. desmond brennan Says:

    Whenever I’m in Heuston station in particular I’m shocked by the shambling army of fluoro smocked ‘workers’ who festoon the place. They seem to occupy little function but doubtless are a serious cost, and union protected to boot.

    Sell the operating license, including equipment rental, to a private operator for the next 10 years. Bus Eireann already more than amply fulfill any ‘public service’ mandate, and can continue to do so, kept nicely in shape by competition. Irish Rail needs to be gotten into shape.

  45. Ceterisparibus Says:

    And finally….
    “Christian Lindner, general secretary of the Free Democrats, (FDP) junior coalition partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right government, said Athens was endangering European solidarity.
    “The breakdown of talks between the Troika and Greece is a blow to the stability of the euro,” he said at a news conference in Berlin.
    Referring to Greece’s failure to meet deficit targets set in exchange for a second bailout package, Lindner said Athens was shirking responsibilities to which it had agreed.
    “This is not about non-binding statements of intent, but contractually secured reciprocity for the emergency loans,” he said. “We insist these agreements are observed.”

  46. The Dork of Cork Says:

    @Micheal Burke
    You are wasting your time - this old generation of economists will come back again to banjax this economy one last time.
    Its a horror story really.
    Its real in your face narrow Anglo shopkeeper economics - they seem incapable of seeing the domestic economy from a energy perspective - its bleeding not because of wages which sustain domestic demand but because of energy inefficiencies which are wasted in the economic ether.
    This bleeding of the economy is expressed in external interest payments as consumers cannot save domestic debt due to huge input costs in their lifestyle and more direct export of money from the non taxable segment of the fuel cost.

    Arabia must be booming and consuming concubines at a magnificent rate on the back of stupid western economic thinking.
    I guess Gold is the only answer to stupidity & corruption - I am thinking of getting more of the stuff if this is what passes for enlightened economic thinking.
    Even under a modest Global M1 Gold standard cars would become a luxury.

  47. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    @Desmond Brennan
    I have read a good bit of material relating to An Taisce Policies on high rise. Broadly speaking they are in favour of low rise in most of Dublin City, but they are in favour of high rise in the designated areas of Dublin: Connolly/The Docklands and around Heuston Station. These are the only two parts of Dublin properly served by commuter trains.

    Transit Oriented development is the way to go. Build up or renovate the transport network, and then encourage development around the nodes of that network.

  48. Paul Hunt Says:

    The two threads on this board from early and mid 2009 I mentioned earlier (3:33pm) provoked some reflection. The engagement of the principal contributors and named (identifiable) commenters was considerable. Even those using pseudonyms contributed usefully. The contrast with this thread (or the thread on energy policy) could not be more pronounced.

    This, of course, reflects cycles in novelty value, interest and individuals’ assessments of the cost/benefit of participation. But, perhaps, it also reflects a closing down of the public discourse on matters economic. As for the ‘big picture’, a sanguine, sunny narrative is being promoted enthusiastically by the government machine - and there is, indeed, objective evidence to give this some credence. But not, perhaps, as much as those promoting it would assert. However, all this serves a useful purpose, both domestically and internationally.

    The downside is that this sanguine narrative is being used and abused to retard, diminish and deflect very limited progress on some much-needed micro-level, structural reforms. The public debate, insofar as it ever really got going in these areas, is being closed down rapidly.

    The FODAR and their ’super-industries’ in the energy and other utllity sectors seem to be confident of their victory. Previously one always had a few shills; now they don’t even bother to attempt to cause distraction or fling abuse.

    The IMF’s press release on the latest disbursal
    http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2011/pr11323.htm
    makes no mention of structural reforms outside of the banking and financial sectors. Looks like game, set and match to FODAR.

  49. David O'Donnell Says:

    @Desmond Brennan

    ‘Whenever I’m in Heuston station in particular I’m shocked by the shambling army of fluoro smocked ‘workers’ who festoon the place.’

    You must be back on that old-style LSD - one of the great joys of the Irish experience is to arrive in Heuston sufficiently late to miss the last train - dead stop, with the doppler effect the last thing on one’s mind, smart 180 degree turn, a purposeful stroll to the Galway Hooker to think about it, sit down with a pint and figure out at least four ways of efficiently, effectively and gloriously getting back into Dublin - and checking them all out on the same night.

    Don’t see why intercities can possibly be placed outside any transport policy -

    … and back to Heuston sometime on the following day …

  50. grumpy Says:

    @Paul H

    Not sure I would have expected the IMF to say too much specific about FODAR rattling measures. They refer to the agreed programme and that hasn’t altered. If you hadn’t linked to that I don’t think I would have bothered to look for it. Dull.

    Minor interest in this bit:
    “financial market conditions have also recently improved”

    err, they must be taking a very very narrow view there, or they are less awake than I took them for.

    “The authorities are also continuing to implement a sizeable fiscal adjustment, and will publish later this year a medium-term fiscal consolidation plan for 2012 to 2015, outlining revenue and expenditure paths to bring the deficit below 3 percent of GDP in 2015.”

    Yeah, that will be trivial.

  51. desmond brennan Says:

    That is the de facto joint Green/An Taisce policy I was referring to
    A) What they ‘allow’ in the docklands is not high rise
    B) High rise should be allowed in the whole city centre

    With high rise, people can live and work in the city centre, making traffic way less of an issue.

  52. EWI Says:

    @ Desmond Brennan

    There is intrinsic value in retaining the low-rise nature of much of the historic Georgian etc. core of the city, in that it helps to make it a more pleasant place to live - not least for those already here.

    You appear determined to wave away what Kevin O’Brien mentions contradicting your confident assertion that Greens/An Taisce are “against” high rise (of course, everyone knows that An Taisce are behind every infrastructure problem in this country, even those they make a point of trying to prevent…)

  53. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    “With high rise, people can live and work in the city centre, making traffic way less of an issue.”

    What is wrong with concentrating the high rises in IFSC area and near Heuston station? And so what If they are not the size of the Pepper Canister.
    High rise is to be encouraged, but only near stations that have the capacity for large numbers of commuters.

  54. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    edit: I meant to say the “Gherkin” in London.

  55. Darren Snow Says:

    In terms of Dublin density the issue isn’t so much lack if high rise in the city centre, which is quite dense without being very tall due to plot ratios. The issue is that this becomes very low density very quickly as you move out. Planning dictated over wide roads and 20 metre back to back mostly semi detached housing. People liked it, in many countries with sensible transport strategies this kind if housing us the preserve of the rich. But this has made the car the de facto mode of transport as Dublin does not have the suburban densities to make mass transit affordable. For an example of the opposite planning strategy, for better or worse, visit Hong Kong where maybe the world’s best subway system is self financing and very cheap to use, but few have the luxury of gardens etc. This together with their social housing strategy , which provides 30% of housing rentals and 20% of sold and managed stock (also self financing), is seen as an affordability issue to keep the cost of living down and so keep the city competitive. Given that one of the arguments against the kind of cuts needed in Ireland is often that the cost of living justifies inflated salaries / transfers this is worth considering.

  56. Gavin Kostick Says:

    I believe the urban sprawl and ‘the car is the future’, came from a plan in 1966.

    And of course in the liberties area in Dublin, these cars poured into a medieval street-scape which was entirely unsuited to them. The fabric of the city was changed to get two lanes going either way. I always find it dispiriting to walk down Clanbrassil Street, past St Patrick’s and on to Christchurch and think what an amazing area that could be, but it’s simply overwhelmed by traffic.

    It’s simply wrong that if you want to hold a conversation between these two great churches, you have to shout all the way.

  57. Darren Snow Says:

    @ Gavin,

    It’s true nothing says more about the rule of traffic over any broader consideration of the city than whats happened there.

  58. paul quigley Says:

    @ Gavin
    Sure don’t we have the wold famous Temple Bar.

  59. Michael Hennigan - Finfacts Says:

    Ballymun put the kaibosh on high rise.

    It was a situation where nobody owned their units, with mostly families with young children.

    Decent people were put with the proverbial anti-social families from hell and it was inevitable that the former would up sticks at the first opportunity.

    The anti-high rise sentiment elsewhere pandered to the nimbies who could be assured of support from elected messenger boys.

    Expect little to change; despite the crash and an impending report on planning corruption, lawyers made more in a day than the price of a rezoning vote while 14 years after the setting up of a tribunal what has really changed? — surely not an appetite to change the corrupt rezoning system!

    Wonder why no data is publicaly available on development land sales?

  60. paul quigley Says:

    @ Paul Hunt

    ‘The downside is that this sanguine narrative is being used and abused to retard, diminish and deflect very limited progress on some much-needed micro-level, structural reforms. The public debate, insofar as it ever really got going in these areas, is being closed down rapidly’

    + 1.

    Having revisited the previous threads to which you kindly linked, my sense is that, notwithstanding the narrative, we are drifting farther from land. The larger difficulties in the EZ and global economy ought to have had the effect of galvanising debate on the microeconomic issues. It seems to have had the opposite effect.

    I suspect the paralysis is related to the ongoing hollowing out of our domestic economy.

    When most of ‘our’ exports consist of internal TNC accounting transactions, where is the foothold for Irish economists in this terrain ?

    Government spending accounts for a huge hunk of GNP. When most of our leading economists work directly or indirectly for the state, what are the prospects for objective analysis of state functions ?

    When the construction and financial industries have gambled themselves into insolvency, which domestic private entities can provide work for aspiring economists ?

    When most of our nominally independent’ institutions are fronts for the advancement of private and corporate vested interests, what are the prospects for pro bono economics ?

    When as Dork points our, the motoring lobby has captured both the executive and the media, how can the energy ship be turned around ?

    As you have said repeatedly, the core problem is political. We haven’t boarded up enough provincial towns yet, so it will take another while for the penny to drop.

  61. Paul Hunt Says:

    @grumpy,

    Agree. But I think you can see the way things are shaping up. We’re being tarted up - and the Government is tarting Ireland up - as a poster boy for the efficacy of the Troika’s treatment to encourage Greece and Portugal (and Spain and Italy). The line is, look, If Ireland can do it, so can you. And it is of great value to the Government to be able to put ‘clear blue water’ between Ireland and the remaining, as Hogan put it, one i’d PIGS in its dealings with the core EZ.

    Let’s hope the Government is accumulating ‘brownie points’ that may be cashed in at a later date. (I suspect the continued ECB bank liquidity support is seen by the core EZ as sufficient compensation for Ireland forswearing the Icelandic route, keeping the bank bondholders whole and taking the hit to protect core EZ banks. I doubt there are any brownie points remaining to be cashed in - despite what some people here might think.)

    What is relevant to the topic on this thread is that, because they run the infrastructure and ultility sectors (which comprise a goodly chunk of the domestic economy) and to prevent them overturning this applecart the Government is painstakingly constructing, to keep the FODAR sweet any reforms in these sectors will be minimal and cosmetic.

    In terms of institutional and regulatory arrangements the government machine developed an elaborate optical illusion of ‘international best practice’ since the late ’90s. It was able to pull the wool over the eyes of the EU, the OECD, the IMF, Transparency International, the international media and commentators and anyone else whose business it was to understand and assess these things.

    The bank debacle threatened to blow this wide open - and should have blown it wide open, but every effort was made to confine the focus to the usual ‘few bad apples’ in banking and finance and on the line that nobody else in international financial circles saw what was coming and the Government couldn’t be expected to take a contrarian position. (I can understand why Colm is keen to see a comprehensive investigation of the banking debacle, but we have a fairly good idea of what went wrong there and, in my view, it would be far better, in a preventive sense, to tackle the dysfunction in other sectors - in particular, the infrastructure and utility sectors being considered here. For goodness sake, the dysfunction is endemic and obvious to anyone with their eyes open.)

    So, once again, the government machine is seeking to sustain the optical illusion that the banking debacle was an isolated one-off (and obviously impacted by external factors outsode of government control) and that everything is hunky-dory in the other sectors. And it’s more than likely that it will be successful in pulling the wool over the Troka’s eyes. The only question that remains is to what extent the Troika will be willing to have the wool pulled over its eyes. Though I suspect its desire to advance Ireland as a poster boy for the efficacy of its treatment will diminish its resistance to the wool-pulling.

    I had hoped that the intervention of the Troika would have rocked the FODAR back to the benefit of the majority of citizens and the economy. But the Troika are also adept at bullshit production.

    Silly, naive me.

  62. Brian Woods Snr Says:

    @PH: “For goodness sake, the dysfunction is endemic and obvious to anyone with their eyes open.”

    Fine, but I notice that them eyes be Wide Shut!

    Note on Railways: Very efficient for transporting heavy loads. Usually have lines into centre of places. So, try to forget about the economic costs (for the duration of this post, that is).

    If a few short years we may have to queue (again) for transport fuel. Hence, your problem will not be the speed at which you can get from D to C (or any other combo) but HOW. I would keep those permanent ways in good shape - even if you only run one service a week.

    @CMcC: Those bozoes up in IFA House. Do they have any chats amongst themselves about the fuel their members use in those T34 look-alike agriculture contraptions that are currently infecting the rural by-ways? Like, VAT and excise duty? Or is cost of agricultural fuel to be subject of another taxpayer mugging - er, subsidy, when the inevitable wholesale price rise of diesel befalls us?

    Brian Snr.

  63. PR Guy Says:

    Telegraph: “Thousands of residents of Geneva — and other towns close to the German, Austrian and Italian borders — now cross into the eurozone to do their weekly shopping.”

    In their Mercs.

    I wonder if their government lectures them for being ‘unpatriotic’ as ours once did?

    Anyway, back to the point… don’t we need all these transport links to encourage job mobility? Though the way things are going, we shall be following Norman Tebbit’s advice and ‘getting on our bikes’ to find work. That’s all we will be able to afford to run. So more cycle paths please.

  64. Ceterisparibus Says:

    @PR Guy
    I read recently that a cup of coffee costs 8.50 euro in Geneva…so it’s little wonder they are going over the borders for shopping.
    Makes you wonder how Swiss industry survives with the overvalued currency.

  65. Antoin Daltún Says:

    I wonder when rail from Dublin will reach Belfast before 0945 [24 hour service by coach], Cork before 0950 [1225], Wexford before 1005 [0620, 0820], Sligo before 1009 [1200], Galway before 1015 [1025], Westport before 1055 [not shown], Tralee before 1058 [not shown], Ballina before 1100 [1050].

    [Times in brackets are Bus Eireann services using current routings. I suspect there are some better private services, licensed and otherwise].

    Contrast this with the airports that can be reached from Dublin before 1000 local time: Amsterdam,Wroclow, Paris (2 flights), London (12 flights), Birmingham (2), Manchester (2), Edinburgh, Bristol, Geneva, Glasgow (2), Brussels, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Leeds, East Midlands, Southampton, Liverpool, Isle of Man (DAA departures for Monday 5 September).

  66. Ceterisparibus Says:

    Angela may get a drubbing in her home constituency today…and the FDP may be wiped out.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/04/us-germany-election-idUSTRE78318220110904

  67. ObsessiveMathsFreak Says:

    When as Dork points our, the motoring lobby has captured both the executive and the media, how can the energy ship be turned around ?

    Regarding this and some other similar comments in this thread(and elsewhere), I think that there needs to be a revolution in the existing “commentariat”. Lobbyist’s, experts for hire, and other establishment mouthpieces are going to have to be tackled head on an removed from their positions of influence if this country is ever going to be something other than an on-again off-again basket case.

    We need intelligent people to start making a mockery of the clowns that are running the country, like Jonathan Swift did with his Drapier’s letters. The internet is not a good tool for this, and what is needed is grass-roots pamphleteering, meetings, letters, speeches and advertisements, to give oxygen to the alternative voices that are being drowned out and stifled by existing media outlets.

    There’s plenty of alternative opinions and solutions in Ireland, but if the only place they’re getting aired is in blog comments and bi-monthly Joe Duffy phone ins, then they may as well not exist. Not when faced with the industries of “indifference to truth” which saturate our airwaves and national newspapers. Irish alternative opinions need to move outside the internet.

  68. EWI Says:

    @ Brian Woods snr

    Or is cost of agricultural fuel to be subject of another taxpayer mugging - er, subsidy, when the inevitable wholesale price rise of diesel befalls us?

    A Revenue sweep of the 4-wheel-drive vehicles in Dublin on All-Ireland day would produce amusing results.

  69. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    @OMF
    http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2011/07/26/the-10-percent-threshold-when-ideas-become-infectious/
    Maybe not. All you needs is 10% of the population to agree with you, and you’re sorted. ;p

  70. PR Guy Says:

    @ObsessiveMathsFreak

    “Irish alternative opinions need to move outside the internet.”

    You are correct. It is a cul-de-sac in terms of creating longer-term opinion/beliefs/values change (which is why the PTB are happy to see campaigners ‘corralled’ there - even Wikileaks appreciated they needed the help of mainstream media/newspapers to really leverage the stuff they obtained) - but as the Arab spring and the recent UK riots demonstrated, quite a useful tool for getting people together quickly.

  71. Paul Hunt Says:

    @OMF,

    “There’s plenty of alternative opinions and solutions in Ireland..”

    I’m sure there are. Some are probably brilliant; some are so-so; and others are probably totally off-the-wall. What we need is a forum to winnow the wheat from the chaff. But the principal forum we have - the Dail and its Cttees - is drowning in the bullshit mass-produced by the ’super-industries’ controlled by the FODAR.

    It took a 39 year old newly appointed Secretary of the DoF two years to build a team that provided his Minister and, subsequently, the incoming Taoiseach, with the intellectual basis to overturn the dominant bullshit of the time - an economically debilitating autarky - and to change the course of economic policy that continues to bear fruit to this day. Any resilience curently evident in the Irish economy, despite such a serious downturn, can be traced back to that sea-change and the sensible policies that flowed from it.

    But a TK Whitaker equivalent today would not be able to turn - or provide the basis for turning - this tide of bullshit. We certainly have some people - knowledgeable, well-regarded and having public recognition - who confront some of the bullshit being propogated, but their efforts are limited, selective and punches are pulled. It is simply too much for any single individual. (Though if a number of such persons - senior positions, well known to and well regarded by the public (in effect ‘untouchable’ by the FODAR) - were, collectively, to confront the bullshit publicly, it could be very interesting.)

    But it seems likely the bullshit will keep coming - at an ever increasing rate - until TDs en masse rise up and say enough and demand the truth. Oh look. That’s another green pig flying by my window.

  72. PR Guy Says:

    @Ceterisparibus

    I think you are right too. Exit polls in Germany aren’t looking too good for AM.

    I wonder what the possibility of SPD/Greens/Linke coalition is? I would not bet against it. SPD are the key - what they do now will have a big impact on 2013 elections. If you’re going to down a Goliath, best to get the first punch in.

  73. John corcoran Says:

    An Taisce is a charity whose aims is to protect and defend the environment,both built and natural, for future generations. It does not decide on planning issues ,local authorities and An Bord Pleanala do.

    An Taisce prefers public transport to private cars. In urban areas it was for high density and against high rise except in designated areas i.e Dublin Docklands.

    With very limited financial resources ,it tried during the bubble years to counter the worst of the planning excesses. For this it was vilified by the property interests, the site farmers and the media. It fought the good fight, finished the course, kept the faith.

  74. Cathal Says:

    I see Colm McCarthy has written another ill-informed attack on the much-need Metro North railway line.

    Firstly, the attempt to besmirch Metro North by linking it with Bertie Ahern is risible. The plan is to for a railway line to go from the city centre to Swords via the Airport. Therefore it is only coincidental that it runs through Ahern’s base in Drumcondra. McCarthy makes it seem as if Bertie Ahern himself drew up the route when the fact is that the route is the product of hundreds of hours of consultation between the DoT, the RPA, the people of north Dublin, the City Council, CIÉ etc.. The real reason why Metro North is going through Drumcondra is to link up with the railway station which already exists - there will be a Metro stop underneath the existing railway station affording commuters the opportunity to interchange between Metro and Irish Rail services.

    Secondly. a cost estimate is available to the RPA, the DoT and the Minister. The reason why the costing has not been made public is because there is a bidding process for the PPP contract to build, operate and finance the project. If the government were to release the costings it would weaken the hand of the government and lead to a bad deal for the taxpayer. What is public is the cost-benefit analysis and this has been consistently positive in each business case made for Metro North. For each €1 spent on Metro, we will see a €1.55 return in terms of lower congestion, emissions, enhanced competitiveness etc.. Metro North will give a net benefit of €1 billion per annum.

    Thirdly, there is no guarantee that Metro North will operate at a loss. Luas, the other public transport project developed by the RPA, operates at a profit with no need of a subvention from the taxpayer. Similarly DART runs at a profit within the CIÉ. These suggest that in fact Metro North will operate without public subsidy and make good business sense.

    Fourthly, I will say this in capitals as it seems to have escaped Colm MoCarthy’s attention - METRO NORTH IS NOT JUST A LINK TO THE AIRPORT. It is a high-capacity public transport corridor for the northside of Dublin city which just happens to have a station at the airport. Metro North has 14 stops which link with 3 hospitals, 2 universities, several suburbs, the two Luas lines, Irish Rail services at Drumcondra and the whole central business district.

    Metro North is a vital part of the future development of Ireland’s transport infrastructure and it is irritating to see it being so badly misrepresented in the national media.

  75. Brian Woods Snr Says:

    @ Cathal

    Why MN? Please detail your economic (not CB analysis) model*. Without knowing this I cannot begin to demolish your comment.

    Try this. The Gov (God bless ‘em) decide to impose a Non-habitation tax on all above-ground-floor space within - say 2 km of Dublin Corp Fruit and Veg market. This tax is progressive: upper floors have a double or treble tariff. Gov allocates 3 bil to the re-furbishment and re-instatement costs. All works must be completed within 5 years or all tariffs are doubled. Think this might get some more folk into centre of town?

    Oh! One more thing. Demolish Merrion Sq park, pave it over and create a Central Square. Erect a mock guillotine at the Leinster House end - as an encouragement, you understand!

    “The reason why the costing has not been made public is because there is a bidding process for the PPP contract to build, operate and finance the project.”

    This is the sort of behaviour that got us into the current economic and financial mess. Failure to disclose ensures cheating.

    Brian Snr.

    * ps: I shall ignore any reply unless you detail your economic Model-in-Use. Absent this Model-in-Use, I shall assume your comments are ill-considered and unstructured.

  76. Garry Says:

    Cathal,

    You are reading far too much into Mr McCarty’s words. He writes a weekly column in the Farmers Journal.

    View his columns as the work of a bought and paid for lobbyist/consultant for the farmers lobby.

    Right now the farmers are fighting to keep the subsidies and schemes going and as usual, have decided that attacking spending of public money on anything other than payments to farmers is a waste.

    I suspect if Mr McCarty gave a tinkers curse about transportation policy he would be not be writing this in the FJ.

    I can see the point of the IFA in paying him to do this…. they have the guy who wrote the infamous report on their payroll.

    It serves to give the farmers something to read and to put other projects/schemes up for cuts before those that matter to the farming lobby.

    Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong, and Mr McCarty has a lifelong interest in transport and this is merely the start of a series in the FJ.

    Who knows, there might even be something in there for his readership; theres plenty of material….. from the green diesel scheme, to the various exemptions on vehicle taxation and DOE tests for agriculture.

    Bus I suspect, he’ll keep writing and getting paid for what the farmers want to hear.

  77. Edward Says:

    Deeply flawed article.

    1. The motorway dividend is far from unambiguous. That is predicated on the idea that more cars in city centres is a good thing. Few people want to drive from the Dunkettle roundabout to Newlands Cross. It is also predicated on the absence of environmental externalities.
    2. Bus operators are constrained by a special speed limit, that means they do not benefit from the motorways, except possibly from small reductions in congestion, which wasn’t the problem with the deprecated section of the Dublin-Cork road. This, not licencing, is the main problem with running bus routes. If you want to run big buses at 120kmph, tell us why it’s safe.
    3. The “obvious threat to passenger numbers” for trains is predicated on no furnished evidence.
    4. Iarnród Éireann journey times from Dublin to Cork are 2.5-3 hours from the centre of Cork to the centre of Dublin. This is not “quite uncompetitive” unless you believe that there is no traffic between Inchicore and Newlands Cross.
    5. The point of the investment in mainline heavy rail is to increase speeds. This will destroy Colm’s “quite uncompetitive” argument.
    6. Ryanair is not a credible and unbiased source on the reasons for its own actions. Private enterprises do not have an incentive to tell the truth about the profitability of their options, when competitors have an option to enter that market too. And the departures of other airlines were predicated on the presence of Ryanair on the Dublin-Cork route, not on its absence.
    7. There is no reason to think that airline losses move in the same direction as railway losses on a given route. If anything, we should expect some people to switch from planes to trains at this point. This is obvious.
    8. The cost of public transport systems mentions nothing of the benefits, e.g. it serves people who don’t have cars, e.g. poor people and young people. Utilitarian philosophy is typical in attempts at cost-benefit analysis, but it doesn’t take equity into account.
    9. As the reasoning or “logic” for cutting spending on regional airports has not been furnished, we should not extend it to railways before getting reasons why the first cuts happened.
    10. Several cost estimates are available for Metro North. A simple Google search confirms this. This would have taken ten seconds to check before putting it in print.
    11. Luas does not incur operating losses. Metro North is more like Luas than a mainline heavy railway. Therefore, it is wrong to assume that Metro North will incur “inevitable operating losses”.
    12. The government is not flat broke. It still has lots of money to fund social welfare, medical treatment, etc. If it were flat broke, we would have seen real spending reductions between 2007 and 2011, which we haven’t. In any case, there are no plans to begin spending today, but rather in 2013 or 2014. If Colm believes that high bond yields will last for three years, he should say so.
    13. The fall in congestion in Dublin is due to the recession. If Colm believes that the recession will last forever, he should say so. If not, it is wrong to base long-term transport planning on what he sees outside his window today.
    14. Because we need a final point to keep this from being unlucky, it’s easy and ironic to attack investment in Dublin rail services from the pages of the Farmers’ Journal.

    @Brian Woods Snr

    Unfair debate if you don’t provide your model.

  78. Brian Woods Snr Says:

    @Edward: Apologies.

    Its Sustainability; aggregate economic activity decrements on an annual basis (less-and-less each year) until you establish the level that is compataible with the Carrying Capacity of the island. Essentially this would require us to obtain all our energy from indigenous sources only! That will be a barrel of laughs.

    Anyway Edward, its not a debate about A is Good, and B is Not So Good. That only begets a futile shouting-match. Its whether or not the project - as one element in our overall economic situation, is mathematically and scientifically valid. Its neither.

    This ‘recession’ is permanent. We are experiencing an economic Regression. My guesstimate is mid-1990s - without the ‘easy oil’! Cheers.

    Brian Snr.

  79. Gerry Mullins Says:

    Wow! It’s great to read clear, understandable and interesting assessment, especially when it runs contrary to the standard, less-informed, comment on public transport.
    Clearly the public is flocking to coaches for intercity travel. On the Galway/Dublin route, for example, the two private operators are wiping the floor with the train service, and the Bus Eireann service too.
    However, I’d like to have read McCarthy’s suggestion about what to do now that we now the trains are a massive waste of money. Should Dublin / Cirk and Dublin / Galway train services be shut down? Should we pull up the tracks?

  80. oneoffireland Says:

    @desmond brennan

    You need to brush up on your ‘facts’ maestro! tis’ a far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to set sail on the troubled seas of thought

    high rise and high density are not necessarily correlated. Read the research. Also if you want a living vibrant city with families etc 6 storeys is the maximum. Otherwise you create urban dereliction over time

    An Taisce’s policies are consistent on this point. It is much more complex than simply building higher. There is a concept called ‘vertical sprawl’ but that may be beyond you

  81. oneoffireland Says:

    ps .. i think your rather over-egg (to put it mildly) the influence of An Taisce/Green Party’s influence on spatial trends over the past 20 years.

    Do you happen to have an agenda?

  82. Blissex Says:

    «When as Dork points our, the motoring lobby has captured both the executive and the media, how can the energy ship be turned around ?»

    As many studies show, car owners can be reliably expected to vote much to the right of public transport users, and thus promoting car ownership has been a long term goal of the conservative establishments in the UK, the USA, and other countries.

  83. Cathal Says:

    @Garry,

    Maybe I shouldn’t take him too seriously on Metro North but it boils my blood to see that the only commentary on it in the media is uninformed nonsense like this. I wish someone from the RPA would write a long opinion piece for the Irish Times, Independent and the Examiner explaining clearly what MN is about to counter the misrepresentations made by others.

    @Gerry Mullins,

    No, we shouldn’t be pulling up the tracks and we certainly shouldn’t be shutting down Dublin/Cork or Dublin/Galway as they are among the most important intercity lines in the country. What we should be doing is upgrading the track, double-tracking them and electrifying them so that we can provide faster and cleaner intercity train services. Our railways have suffered years of neglect and need the same attention paid to upgrading our road network.

  84. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    What greater Dublin needs is a proper rapid rail transit network, and Metro North is vital to that end. An overall picture of how this network might end up looking must be considered. Only then can we properly consider economic models.

    Iarnrod Eireann proposed a link from Clongriffin to the Airport, as an alternative. I am highly dubious about this idea.

    What DoT should do is build a rail corridor accross the northern fringe of Dublin ( Clongriffin to Dardistown to Cappagh or somewhere like that) to complement the MN. As far as I am aware, most of this is brownfield. In conjuncition with this, the planning authorities should promote transit orientated development, something I mentioned earlier.

    Some may make remarks about the property crash and so on, but the lifespan of these infrastructure projects are measured in decades ( Jubilee line : 100 years old) and we will be needing to build again sooner or later.

  85. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    edit: Bakerloo is 100 years old. Second time I did that.

  86. Cathal Says:

    @Kevin O’Brien,

    You’re quite correct in saying that these pieces of infrastructure will last for over a century and give benefits to several generations of the travelling public. Metro North is ideally placed to grow in response to these demands. Some people say that we should just build a Luas line or buslane along the route yet those modes of transport cannot provide the capacity of Metro. Luas has already hit peak capacity less than 10 years into operation unlike Metro North which can progressively increase capacity over 30 years before reaching peak. The reason for this is that it is entirely segregated from other traffic - it’s underground in the city centre and elevated in the suburbs. This means that metros can run at peak frequencies of 1 every 90 seconds without holding up other traffic. Buses and trams must consider other road users and this reduces their maximum capacities. Underground/Elevated Rail is, and has always been, the best choice for urban public transport.

  87. kevin dublin Says:

    desmond brennan: “With high rise, people can live and work in the city centre, making traffic way less of an issue”

    You’re confusing high rise with high density. They’re two different things. Any problems related to density in Dublin are due to chronic suburban sprawl extending for 30 or 50 miles outside (which An Taisce and very few others assiduously opposed for decades). Densities within the core of Dublin are actually quite high. The problem is building use, lack of attractiveness of city living and other cultural/perception-related factors. Highrise buildings don’t give any great density gain above what you achieve with 5/6 storey conjoined buildings, as more open space is needed around them. However we can of course have a couple of strategically located ‘marker’ highrise buildings and that is more or less what official policy allows for. Problem was (like the rest of Irish life at the time) things were beserk during the boom and developers came in with highrise plans in the historic core of the city which were given permission by the development-levy-dependent Dublin City Council in breach of their own development plan. It was vitally important that there was a body such as An Taisce to monitor what was going on during this period and send plans to the appeals board who - shock horror - upheld official policy.

    desmond brennan: “An Taisce persistently lobbied against significiant hi-rise in Dublin city centre, and turned half the streets and skyline into museums to boot.”

    The great attraction of Dublin is the coherent scale of its centre, street after street with a consistent 4/5 storey scale - sometimes referred to as ‘human’ scale - a great asset to any city and worth jealously guarding. A few ill-placed high buildings and this is gone forever, and with it Dublin’s chances of getting on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, thus An Taisce’s role in planning here is fully justified. Dublin is not a fledgling Asian city grappling for identity by building highrise. It already has world renowned character for its history, literature & architecture.

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