Wednesday 28 May 2008

Bogged down by bureaucracy

Repeated reviews and constant consultations have halted progress and stifled innovation in our transport network, writes Tim O'Brien

ON MONDAY May 12th, the Department of Transport announced the end of public consultation on its sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan. On Monday May 19th, the Minister, Noel Dempsey, announced the start of a period of public consultation on the Future of Transport in Dublin.

In the week between, the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) called for the public to engage in consultation on its new Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area (Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow) for the period up to 2030.

The new DTO strategy will replace the DTO Platform for Change 2000-2016. The Platform for Change is similar, but not the same, as the Dublin elements in yet another policy document: Transport 21.

Confused? Well you ought to be. The State's policy in relation to air and sea ports, road and rail plans, even road safety strategies and the encompassing legislative framework is, and has been for a decade, beset by review and counter review.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) is proceeding with the 1999 plan to link Dublin to regional cities and the Border by motorways or high quality dual carriageways, having reviewed the 1998 Roads Needs Study. It subsequently reviewed both the cost and timescale of the plan.

A controversy over the maximum height of lorries on Irish roads led to former taoiseach Bertie Ahern announcing in 2006 that the maximum height of lorries using the Dublin Port Tunnel would be 4.65 metres and any lorries higher than that should be "turned back" in the port. This is currently under review by the North South body InterTrade Ireland, which recently recommended a standard maximum height North and South of 4.95 metres.

The NRA also reviewed the use of 2+1 lane roads and decided they should be replaced by 2+2 roads. It also reviewed the dropping of plans for the Eastern Bypass which it says should again be Government policy.

Dublin Port itself was subject of a review by the Progressive Democrats, whose former leader and tánaiste Michael McDowell called for the Government to relocate the port to north County Dublin and build "Manhattan" in the docklands. Plans to relocate the port or reclaim additional land in Dublin Bay are currently under review by Government, although both are said to be progressing.

Séamus Brennan's 2003 plan to set up Cork and Shannon airports as independent entities free from debt was reviewed by the Government and the plan is now that they should be partially free from debt.

The Strategic Rail Review was published by Brennan in 2003 and this found against the reopening of the Western Rail Corridor and the Dublin to Navan line. This was reviewed by the Government in 2005 and both schemes are now policy. Mary O'Rourke "reviewed" the plan to have a Luas link in Dublin City Centre, and this review was subsequently reviewed. We now know that there will be a link but we don't know exactly when.

The plan to ban private cars from Dublin City Centre in 2010, in time for the construction of Metro, was "reviewed" by the Oireachtas Committee on Transport. Committee chairman Frank Fahy proposed in a draft report that this be brought forward to 2009. But, following prompting from his committee members and the City Business Association, this plan is under review.

In road safety terms, a plan to roll out speed cameras across the State was first mooted in 1987, by Dempsey and Bertie Ahern. It was never actually reviewed, but it has not happened either. Nor has the plan to reduce the acceptable level of alcohol in drivers' blood.

In legislative terms we have had the 2007 Roads Act, the 2008 Dublin Transport Authority Bill, and the soon-to-be launched review of the 1932 Transport Act.

And we haven't even started on the M50!

The Irish Times

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