Tuesday 13 March 2007

Sargent defends plan to review roads programme

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent has described as "distortion" suggestions by Tánaiste Michael McDowell that the party plans to scrap a large number of road developments if it is elected to government.
Speaking at a press conference in Cork yesterday, Mr Sargent said reports that the Greens in government would damage the economy and regional development by not proceeding with the roads programme were based on "false reading" or "non-reading" of party policy.
However, Mr Sargent said the imbalance between road investment and public transport investment had to be addressed urgently.
He insisted increased investment in public transport was vital for a range of economic, social and environmental reasons.
Mr Sargent said the road programme was not going to solve gridlock because planning had allowed Dublin to become the magnet for the country.
"Simply building more roads to get people quicker into the traffic jam around the M50 is not going to solve gridlock.
"An example of that is the M3 coming in from Navan, which will bring traffic more quickly into the M50. Whereas if you have a rail link from Navan into Dublin you don't have the gridlock problem to deal with, and people also get into Dublin without the emissions.
"We do need to make our roads safer, we do need to upgrade our roads, but what we need to do at the same time is have the public transport infrastructure.
"You cannot do everything you want, but you have to give the priority to public transport and we are working responsibly within the money available under Transport 21. Instead of being thanked for being responsible, the Government is trying to distort what we are saying."
The Green Party has proposed new Luas lines for Cork and Galway, an extension of Dublin's light rail system and the fast-tracking of a rail link for Navan if it gets into government after the next general election.
The present Government's plan is to build, widen or upgrade 850km of roads, costing €18 billion, over the next eight years. Greens transport spokesman Eamon Ryan has admitted that, if elected to government, the party would reassess the roads programme.
However, suggestions that the Greens would drop 100 road projects have been described by Mr Ryan as "ludicrous".
Reflecting on the publication of the Government's White Paper on Energy yesterday, Mr Sargent said he feared it was simply another "whitewash" designed to give the impression that the Taoiseach and Tánaiste cared about the environment.
Olivia Kelleher
© 2007 The Irish Times

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