December 10, 2006

The road to nowhere

Posted in Celtic Tiger · 37 comments ·
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‘I can always tell the weather in Dublin by the annoying sound of wipers, swishing back and forth incessantly. It drives me mad’’.

So began a conversation with a businesswoman in Cork on Thursday night as we exasperatedly swapped traffic hell stories. She was explaining that practically all her calls to work in Dublin are taken by colleagues who are stuck in traffic, hence the wipers being the perennial background noise. ‘‘It should be the company theme tune.”

Granted the weather was appalling last Thursday; but it is Ireland, it is winter and we are likely to get rain. Yet, despite being forewarned for 20 generations, one bad morning causes havoc on the roads. In my case, this was only the start of a transport nightmare which was not straight out of west Africa, but west Europe. My objective, in the richest country in Europe – with the largest budget surplus in history – was to get from Dublin’s southside to the northside and then back into town to catch a train to Cork. Should have been relatively simple, don’t you think?

‘‘Let’s wait till about 9.30am, the taxi driver said. ‘‘By that time the traffic will have died down and we’ll get from Dun Laoghaire to Swords easily in an hour.” We stopped moving almost as soon as we started. Trucks, buses, juggernauts, cars and vans all piled up behind each other – and that was in the bus lanes. Where were the gardai, the marshals of operation free-flow?

It took two horrendously frustrating hours. We’ve all been through it. We’ve all lost the rag, missed meetings and shouted and roared at others who are in the same bind as us. This is an enormous added stress of living in a country where the state is so appallingly inefficient that it makes you wonder why there isn’t a tax revolt every Monday morning.

Last Wednesday, we had a finance minister who has been gifted, by us, the most enviable budgetary largesse and last Thursday we all faced the reality of Ireland’s transport infrastructure.

The economic inefficiencies created by poor infrastructure are enormous. The hours wasted, the environmental damage, the overtime charges – these costs must run into billions per week. What about the stress and anxiety caused to thousands of working parents who live in fear of their kids being last to leave the creche looking up with big sad eyes at mum saying: ‘‘I thought you weren’t coming.” These are real psychological and emotional costs which, if nothing else, reduce people’s quality of life.

So I made the meeting – an hour late. Apologies all round. Then the taxi driver suggested – given the dreadful traffic – that we should give it at least an hour to get down the bus lanes to Heuston Station. It took almost an hour to get from Dorset Street to Benburb Street.

Yes, I know I should’ve walked, but when you’re in that position, you tend to think that just past the next lights there’ll be progress. So I missed the train. Not to worry, CIE had another ‘special’ train that was to leave at 2pm. All was not lost. Now the fun really started. I had been kicking myself for not taking the Dart (although there is no station at Swords), but at least it would have prevented all the fuming. I began to curse myself and laud Irish Rail, vowing never again to drive anywhere. Relaxing, I thought, I’ll get on the train, have a snooze, something to eat and we’d be in Cork in no time.

Platform 8, the guard said and off I went with almost a spring in my step, prepared to put the morning’s horror behind me. Until I saw the special 2pm train to Cork. It was possibly the oldest rolling stocks till in use in the western world. The carriages were from the 1950s, possibly even older. The windows were wedged open. The wind howled through the rickety doors. The place was filthy. The loos were a disgrace, pestilent and hazardous. There was no running water. There was a thick film of black grease and dirt on the sills. This train had never been cleaned.

Worse, on probably one of the coldest days we’ve had all winter, there was no heat! Those passengers lucky enough to have muffled up earlier sat bewildered, with hats, scarves and coats buttoned up, shivering. It was almost comical. By Kildare, white smoke had started to emerge from the vents, terrifying my neighbour who thought the place was on fire. This eerie cloud enveloped the carriage that most of us had migrated to, on the basis that it was the only one whose doors actually closed tight.

I experienced a sensation that I haven’t had since I was a child. Let’s call it the ‘7A shoulder’. As a kid, I always remember coming home with one shoulder of my duffel coat sodden. The shoulder that was leaning against the bus window was always soaked from a combination of condensation and leaks.

It happened to me again on the 2pm special train to Cork on Thursday – 30 years later. Of course there was no food trolley. There wasn’t even a bar to get a cup of tea on the main ‘intercity’ service between Ireland’s two largest cities, the day after the finance minister told us that we were the most successful economy in Europe and a beacon for the whole world. What type of company treats its customers like that?

How dare they? What sort of management deems it professional to have such a train still in use? One passenger was so frustrated he went around the train getting a petition signed. All but the employees of the company signed. In fairness to Irish Rail, the Craven Car 1950s model was a mistake. They refunded everyone’s cash and apologised profusely. The train journey back up the next day from Cork was a pleasure and the new stock, just delivered from Spain, is state of the art. But this little story of everyday hassle in Ireland underscores the real inflation in our economy. We are stretched to the limits of our capacity. Inflation is not just a monetary phenomenon, it rears its head when there is far too much demand and not enough supply.

We need to get our act together and we have years to go in the area of public infrastructure before we even come close to European standards. For this, someone has to take the rap. Despite all the bluster of Wednesday’s budget, the buck has to stop with the government.


  1. Micheál

    Besides the bus services which connects Ireland’s cities, Iarnrod Eireann’s rail service is effectively a monopoly. They know that and I have experienced first hand their “like it or lump it” attitude. I am quite sure that a lot of readers will agree with me in saying that David and the passengers on board the train were not the only ones to experience that scenario. Would the passengers on board that train have received a full refund if a petition was not signed? I know i didn’t. We deserve better, especially when we have to pay €57 for a single journey ticket from Tralee to Dublin!!! If you check flights online you might be able to purchase return flights for that price.

  2. Glen Quinn

    Well it looks like Milton Friedman was correct when he coined the term “Capitalism and Freedom”. Me personally I do not believe in Socialism or the Welfare state. I agree with Friedman.

    What do you expect from Iarnrod Eireann in any way for GODs sake there are only two railway lines (in some cases one railway line) connecting most of our cities and towns up.

    Michael and David McWilliamsI completly agree with everything you have said.

    Michael: I bought an Aer Aerann flight from Dublin to Tralee for €40 euros, so I’m afraid it was cheaper than your railway ticket and it only takes 45 minutes flight time as opposed to your 7 hour journey (Depends it you have to change at Kilarney).

    David McWilliams: In 1999 I had to commute from Finglas to Sandyford Industial estate it took me 2 hours to get there and the same coming back. In 2001 my travel time increased to 2h and 30 minutes so I had to rent out in Stillorgan. I then got so feed up with the amount of time to commute from the Northside to the Southside and vice-versa (It is only about 6-10 miles) that I moved to London. In London I commute from Wembley to Canary Warf (about 20 miles) in 45 minutes via the Jubilee line.

    In theory Ireland is one of the richest countries in the World but in reality it is not. The politicians will not be bothered about our railway,buses, etc because non of our politicians use them.

  3. The worst part of this lack of infrastructure is still to come.
    Soon the companies will start to think where to go to save the high salaries and the time lost in the traffic jams and probably they will decide to go.

    Also, many of them will decide not to settle in Ireland because that lack of infrastructure.

    When the minister cuts taxes and says that Ireland is more or less the example to follow I think “this must be a joke”. A country with no real public transport and with this level of traffic jams is an example?.

    But even if the goverment has the money and the will to create those infrastructures, it will take YEARS to build them and probably when finished many companies won’t be in Ireland.

    When will irish politicians stop of celebrating the great improvement of Ireland and start facing the problems Ireland have?

  4. noreen

    When you say that train from the 1950s was a mistake, I wonder whether that was because it was meant for the Galway route.

    We’re used to it, though. I remember my mother stepping on the Westport train with us kids in about 1974, expressing dismay at the state of the train, and saying, “Anything is good enough for the West”. Little has changed for some of us.

  5. Mark

    ‘……and the new stock, just delivered from Spain, is state of the art’……um, isn’t that Craig Doyles line in the CIE advertising campaign? I am cringing.

    Still, what you’re saying is right. Our rail system really is beyond, beyond belief. It’s almost as if it is part of a covert strategy to attract film-makers to shoot their 1950s films here. I live in Wexford, some 80 odd MILES from the pale. In France, on a high speed route, this would be totally commuteable. However, 3 hours on a rattling, ramshackle green lawnmower really doesn’t cut it though. Oh, I could go on, and on, and on, and on, and on about the crap we have to put up with in this country. And no, it’s not just Irish-bashing, it’s just as you put it, gormless ineffeciency etc etc. I am amazed at how popular this government is – the economy runs itself as long as they keep out of it – the things they are responsible for like health, transport, education etc etc are all nothing short of a scandal.

    Ireland? Ugh.

  6. David J.

    All politicians in Ireland should have to take public transport to work and I don’t mean the publically funded car service, I mean bus, train or even bike, when they are in their own district. All parties should suffer the incredulous disaster that is Celtic Tiger gridlock. Perhaps we would get some movement on public infrastructure as a result.

    As per countrywide train and bus service, all areas of the country should be served with high speed train service, using renewable energy electrification or MagLev. They ripped up rail lines throughout this country to put in roads or satisfy local industry so every main road should have a high speed train in parallel to allow easy transfer to bus or car.

  7. Aesop

    The public transport service in this country is an absolute thundering disgrace. The main reason for this is the unions stranglehold on the companies concerned. I heard a union offical crowing on the “Last Word” two weeks ago about happy he was that they had kept private operators from competing with Dublin bus. When the DART line was extended to Greystones drivers had to be given extra pay. Time after time unions sink any chance of progress. And of course while the electorate is happy to vote in the likes of Jackie Healy Rae and Micheal Lowry then there is no chance of any political will to take them on.

  8. laura

    I am amused that anybody would even consider using any form of road transport to get from Dub Laoghaire to Swords during peak traffic when its much simpler to get the DART and then catch a 230 from Malahide. Or else get the DART and then taxi from the DART station to Swords. Would have to agree with the posters comments on cross city traffic – back in 1997 I used to take about 2.5 hours to get from Swords to Ranelagh by bus: I shudder to think what it might take now – 3, 4 hours perhaps? Of course the reason it took so long was that 3 weeks after I started that particular route Dublin Bus (in their wisdom) abolished the most direct cross city route (the 13) and replaced it with two heavily cutback half-routes (13A and 13B). They done the same with the 20, the 16 and several other once useful, traffic-busting routes – in many cases making it impossible to commute to work on these routes except by car.

    I know these ramshackle trains well, as they showed up a lot a couple of years ago on one of the routes where CIE staff show maximum contempt possible for users – Cork to Cobh. Using this route makes you feel you’ve be generously spat on by most of the staff (with the exception of the marvellous station staff at Little Island, who are definitely the best in the business), and thats before you think of the outrageous wages some of these guys get paid at even the lowest level. To think that the folks in Midleton are actually looking forward to such an appalling service (think random cancellations at rush hour and wildcat strikes) coming their way makes me cringe. Then again its the supreme ignorance of the people who don’t actually use these services that leads to the wholescale ignoring of the problems on them in the first place. I cannot help but think of the comment that Thatcher once made – which indicated that anybody who still got the bus over the age of 30 was a failure, is a feeling that resonates strongly throughout Ireland.

  9. Jonathan Benson

    I agree with all of the above comments. Public transport in this country is farcical. What I can’t belive is the rubbish excuse for the state of the roads that the government put forward every time this issue is raised: the “We never knew there would be so many cars and that’s why our roads are so congested” line. Well if they didn’t think everybody was going to drive to work then you would have to assume that public transport was going to take them. If that is the case where is/was the investment in public transport??
    What’s worse is I don’t see much changing.
    Landowners are richly compensated for land used in road building, sucking up tax-payers money that could otherwise be used to build more road. I doubt if you will find a more expensive place in the world to build a motorway, train station or train line.
    Kow-towing to unions and lobby groups is at an all time high. Crappy service in the civil service and semi-states is handsomely rewarded with mandatory pay raises (benchmarking). I knew a guy who took a job in Iaranrod Eireann some years ago and quit soon after because he was sick of being the only one who did any work. He told me that one senior guy was drunk by 12 and spent the rest of the day asleep and was paid handsomely for his services
    Clearly this waste of public money, our money, has one objective and its not to solve the transport problem. But then again buying votes for the next election is never cheap. If I was a civil servant or a land owner I know who I’d be voting for.

  10. Niamh

    As an Irish citizen living abroad and a former resident of Galway and Dublin, I can say that I ahve experienced all that David mentioned in his article. When I go home to Ireland these days, I fly between Dublin and GAlway. Aer Arann is a fantastic airline that deserves a lot of credit for making GAlway less isolated. I have not been on a train or travelled on the horrible Galway – Dublin road in 9 years. I had too many trips on that route as a child and I could not do it again despite all the improvements. My husband was shocked when we drove out to Connemara on a “national road” which consisted of 2 narrow lanes on the way out to Clifden. I will not swap my life here for that sort of hassle.

  11. Dan Hayes

    David & Co.:

    To paraphrase the immortal words Lowell Weicher, Connecticut’s former Senator and Governor, let me be the turd in the punchbowl with a few good words about the Irish public transport system. Every year I take the bus round-trip between Shannon and Killarney. The service is reasonably fast and pretty cheap. So maybe it’s not all bad!

  12. Ciarán Mc

    There are two primary reasons why our public transport is so terrible:
    1. Wastage and inefficiency due to bad management and outdated work practices – here the government needs balls to take on a reform process that will deliver results. Competition, if well planned and regulated, may help.
    2.Lack of investment – the percentage of our investment in public transport is miniscule, yes miniscule, compared with that in the European nations which we have used for comparison.
    But this is back to the syndrome that David refers to frequently: we want the tax system of Texas with the public services of Stockholm. We cannot simply blame the government: Brian Cowen’s budget was debated more about who got what. We all lapped it up and took our few pathetic pounds and praised our lovely low tax system. Then we sit on the ramshackle trains and complain. I’m sorry, but we cannot have it both ways. The two grand per year or so that will go to high earners from the budget next year will make a fine wee dab of pocket money for next year’s Christmas shopping trip in New York, but meanwhile the investment in public transport is dwarfed by that in other nations.
    But why do people repeatedly fall for the promise of taxes? Yes yes, governments mismanage : but if we continue reducing taxes and thereby fail to boost our public services, then we will continue to moan about the traffic jams and the desparate trains. It’s us, the voters, who need to change our mindsets. We need to demand government to deliver, and we need to chose to support funding of transport services. Competition on the rail lines etc. may help deliver efficiency, but it will not solve the problem. (Witness the British disaster of rail privatisation where the tax payer ended up bailing out the failed rail track). The British experience doesn’t mean privatisation cannot help, it means it is no panacea and that it alone cannot bring us to where we want to be. Long term vision, planning, and investment will be neeed. But if we prefer tax cuts for Christmas, let’s take them and shut our mouths.

  13. Aidan

    Great article David. As another exile, in Holland, reading your article I am bewildered that public transport in Ireland remains stuck in the dark ages despite the professed wealth of the new Ireland.
    Believe it or not Dutch people also give out about the train service but they have never sat frozen on a stinking boneshaker from Dublin to Ennis. I go to Poland regularly and the rolling stock there is pretty much the same. When your benchmark is a country still trying to recover from the economics of communism you have to wonder if Ireland really is so wealthy.
    I would argue that Ireland may be a success in terms of GNP growth but that that is only measuring the dynamic production of the economy. GNP does not measure the existing assets of the economy as far as I understand. It is like Ireland is earning the most money in Europe but it does not necessarily have so much in the bank. Countries like Germany or Sweden quite clearly have plenty of assets regardless of how the economy is performing at a given moment. Unless Ireland starts spending some of the coin on the future rather than the present that situation isn’t going to change.

  14. laura

    I think the problem with Iranrod Eireann – as in many public service and semi-state bodies – is that so much of the “investment” money passed to them in recent years has ended up simply going to pay for so-called “bench-marking” rises that basically were delivered without the workers in so many cases doing anything at all to achieve these rises. The whole point of bench-marking was to modernise the public service and bring it into line with performance management based objectives – this has been an utter failure.

    Its not even consistent though. If you want an example of this look within CIE to the huge discrepancy between Bus and Rail services – rail services get massive subsidies, many of which end up on wages, and subsidising costly services. On the other hand, long range bus services are barely subsidised at all – and bus drivers wages are well behind those of their cousins in the rail subsidary. Likewise, pop down to Little Island in Cork where a bus trip costs twice what a rail trip does due to a large differential between subsidies between the two. Better still look at the bus services for relatively short distances – where I live a return one day bus ticket is now so costly (for a 17 mile each-way round trip) that it is actually cheaper to drive (yes, that includes tax, insurance, petrol AND maintenance!) than to pay nearly 9 euros a day to use a bus service which arrives up to 40 minutes late and often doesn’t bother stopping to pick up passengers at all!

  15. P.J. Brady

    A further point is the general level of comfort when you are travelling on trains in Ireland on Fridays and Saturdays. Especially on the Galway line, where weekend journeys can be packed with Stag parties getting boozed up on the journey. This is not France or Sweden where people are unlikely to cause much hassle to fellow passengers. It is quite regular that passengers have to call attention of staff to obscene, loud, shirtless completly drunken passengers on Iarnroid Eireann carriages. How much a year gross i Iarnroid Eireann making in “profit” from alcohol sales. Bottles of beer are typically 5 euro on journeys. Several drinkers on every train, multiple trains in both directions, multiple destinations, over 365 days it adds up to a large sum.
    With the prices charged for a typical train journey, drinking onboard needs to be banned in 2007.

    P.J. Brady

  16. SpinstaSista

    A Polish friend said to me that Ireland’s infrastructure should be much better considering the amount of money we receive from the EU to build roads. According to him the roads in Poland are much the same as in Ireland, and he said that the train service was BETTER over there. Makes you wonder.

  17. Glen Quinn

    I have been going to Belarus every three months for the last 2 years. In Minsk they have a metro system. You wait no more than 5 mins for a train to come along and you can use your mobile phone in the metro underground. The city streets are avenues.

    Total public transport in Minsk consists of:
    Buses
    Trams
    Metro
    Taxi’s

    Belarus is won of them countries that was heavy influency by Communism and they still have it there. Belarus has been ruled by a dictator for the last 12 years, it’s not a country that has much industry (not as much as Ireland because the state takes control of all private enterprises) but there public transport system is excellent.

    Also there health care system is excellent, it really did beat the Irish healthcare system. I broke my tooth while in a restraunt and I was in pain. I went to the local dentist the next day and within 20 mins I was seen too and cured.

    The Communist had a law that any city that exceeded a population of one million people then they had to build a metro.

    I currently live in London and I have been noticing a huge increase in murders throughout Ireland. It’s like as if a civil war is ready to break out.

  18. Sharon gillin

    Have lived in Ireland most of my life and am currently living in Washington State for the past year. Dear God, when will they get there act together at home… the country is a fast pacing, incredibly growing economy in so many areas, however, leave it to civil servants and city planners (more civil servants) and it’ll be one step forward and two steps back. I’ve never understood the total lack of forsight and planning with basic infrastucures….like mm, transport, mm…roads, oh yes, health care. God bless America!

  19. Ciarán Mc

    Sharon,
    Your final wish is incomplete: “God bless America – if you’re not poor that is”. America is a great country, don’t get me wrong. But its provision of healthcare, education, and dare I say transport, are hardly exemplary if you happen to be poor.
    But yes, I totally agree that large chunks of the civil service are comprised of wood that is as dead a door nail.

  20. Eoghan

    If you think the traffic is bad now, wait until 20th December when they push all the HGV traffic from the port out through the tunnel and onto the alreay crammed M50!

    Oh lordie …..

  21. Ronan

    I’m living in Poland for a year, and it has much better public transport than Ireland. For me the only decent line in the country is Dublin to Belfast. I believe unions and a lack of political will are holding everything back, hopefully the Greens will be in the next coalition with just about enough clout to force some infrastructural improvements. Privitization of public transport will not work if the infrastructure is not up to required standards, this is why we have the M50 toll-bridge disaster, where the only option to solve that problem is for the gov to buy it outright. Consider Austria’s rail system, the best I have ever used, it is state-owned and has strong unions but somehow is able to continuously improve

  22. Mark

    “…….hopefully the Greens will be in the next coalition with just about enough clout to force some infrastructural improvements.”

    Like better tree-huts for protesting road upgrades?

  23. Enda

    Something that really puzzles me; why was it necessary to wait until the M50 was completed before the current widening could start? After all the need for an extra lane was recognised before the last sections were complete. If a redisign was required then the seemingly endless delays caused court cases etc. provided an opportunity to do just that.

    I believe that the planners/ designers of the M50 missed a great opportunity to build a railway along with the road. This would’ve formed a ring around the city (with the dart on the east side) – potentially giving access to the airport from anywhere on the east coast and beyond. In additon, radial intersecting links running parallel to the N3,N4,N7, etc. (like the Luas) could take the pressure of these roads and greatly reducing carbon emissions.

  24. Ed

    It’s the low population – Stupid! A tourist once remarked “ how do you maintain so many roads for such a small population”. When you combine strong laws protecting rights of ownership and a small population, the costs per capita of developing any type of infrastructure becomes very high. If only we had natural resources like Australia or the U.S.A. we could easily afford it, but all we have is our hard work. There is now have a slot in time, however, to get a reasonable countrywide road network in place, but unless the process of acquiring land and planning is fast-tracked, the opportunity may pass us by. Such a network would integrate the economy and give us a far better chance of maintaining our position into the future.

  25. Glen Quinn

    Hi Ed,

    You also have to add on the amount of tourists that comes to Ireland on top of the countries population because the infrasturture and public transport also needs to transport these people as well. You would be looking at a total of about 10 million people in the country in a given year. Population doesn’t look so small now!

    How does Denmark manage? Denmark has the same population as Ireland and has a bigger land mass to look after. Denmark’s public transport is very good and brilliant compared to our system.

    You see the problem with Ireland is that we use that feebile exuse of “we have a low population”. I see this as a very big weakness and it is know wonder why the whole country is starting to come to a holt (roads,railway, airports, no proper connections to any transport hubs, health system, education, and prisons). Bertie should just come straight out and say the reason why our infrastructure is so bad and will always remain so is because we have a low population. My reply to this would be “BULLSHIT”.

    London started building there metro in 1880 when London’s population reached 1 million people. Dublins population alone is much greater than 1 million people and so a metro for Dublin is an absolutly must (No thinking is needed just get on and build it!)

    Enda: That was a very good idea that you highlighted.

  26. Nora

    Glen,

    When England built its underground network, they were a world superpower and had plenty of money coming from their colonies. Same can be said for the French and the metro. The problem with Ireland is that they didn’t have any money until very recently. Having said that, it is true that this should now be a priority for the government to lay the plans for some proper infrastructure in this country…

  27. Glen Quinn

    Hi Nora,

    Exactly. We have the money now and so there are no excuses as to why we can’t have the best infrasturture and services in the World. We have very intelligent and talented people in our country and I see it as a sin in not using these peoples potential to the full.

    The one thing England and France have in common is that they consintrated on building up there financial centres and it was these financial centres in there city that funded alot of there capital, this is what Ireland needs to do. Ireland needs to build a bigger and better financial centres throughout Ireland. I’m talking about financial centres in Dublin (already have IFSC but make it better with more international banks), Cork (Currently started), and Galway. Linked together with the very best telecomunications equipment for high speed data transfers (don’t laugh, I know the state of the fixed line system thanks to Eircom). Our tax rates on dealing with International Finance needs to be changed because at present a financial company is not encouraged enough to setup here as opposed to setting up in London or in Paris.

    Most Irish people that I meet in London or in New York are all top mangement in JP Morgan, Merrily Lynch and Barclays Capital so we don’t have the excuse in saying that we don’t have people without good experience the simple answer is yes we do.

    Bottom line, Ireland has no excuses in not being either a very wealthy country with great infrastucture and services or a superpower. (FULLSTOP)

  28. Glen Quinn

    “Most Irish people that I meet in London or in New York are all top mangement in JP Morgan, Merrily Lynch and Barclays Capital so we don’t have the excuse in saying that we don’t have people without good experience the simple answer is yes we do.” – this should read as follows:

    “Most Irish people that I meet in London or in New York are all top mangement in JP Morgan, Merrily Lynch and Barclays Capital so we don’t have the excuse in saying that we don’t have enough of people with good experience, the simple answer is yes we do.”

  29. Ed

    Glen,

    Back to the low population – tourists only add, on average, about 250,000 to our population at any given time and that is assuming that they stay for between one and two weeks. Anyway, the problem remains as to how we can get our infrastructure up to an acceptable standard while there is still sufficient momentum in the economy. We can’t look to Europe for examples, as our position is much different in terms of history, age and isolation. The “if only” thinking is not going to do anything for us, so, therefore, the only course open to us, is to up our performance with what we already have to hand .

  30. Glen Quinn

    Hi Ed,

    No, I’m sorry but your figure of 250,000 is way too low. The actual amount of tourists that have visited Ireland so far in 2006 is 8.8 million people.
    http://www.rte.ie/news/2006/1204/tourism.html

    This would therefore bring our population up to about 12.8 million people. Even if these people are staying for a week or two they are still going to use our infrastructure (roads by renting vehicles, bus, railway, airport, and citys). Also we have an immigration population growth as well as our own native population growing at a tremendious amount. We should have been starting building in 1994.

    You see the problem that Ireland has is that alot of Irish people and all politians have a very low esteem of what Ireland can actually do and acomplish. We are not slaves to any other country but we could be the leaders of the World. Remember at one stage Britain controlled 60% of the World and the population of Britain was only about 6 million people (about 1830′s).

  31. laura

    Actually I used to read a lot of books about the building of the London Underground, and it is worth stating that it was built with private investment rather than public money. Presuming that these private investors were not receiving tax income, the railroads were built with private investment income. As far as I recall, the railroads were not nationalised until the 1930s, which meant that they were largely operated from the income of the companies who invested – which as far as I recall, meant it was loss making, and many of the lines/stock changed hands during the pre-nationalisation era.

    Actually, likewise, most of the irish rail infrastructure was also built from private investment, by many of the same companies (LMS comes to mind, as my mother’s family worked for them). It is indeed ironic since the decline of the rail and tram system coincides not only with the period of the expansion of the road system, but also with the nationalisation of the rail system. Sadly, it does at least partially suggest that nationalisation contributed at least in part to the decline of the rail – and in my experience continues to apply the same downward pressure in operating standards.

  32. David J.

    Public infrastructure improvements, specially rail and rapid transport, would bring additional jobs through direct employment on construction, continuing employment on service and maintenance and, incentivization of companies to be located in currently unaccessible and underdeveloped areas, and lastly increased tourism.

    - For example, we have no real rail service into the Northwest of the country, yet we have two major colleges in the area, Sligo and Letterkenny It would appear that an efficient rail network in the region would bring further investment and perhaps prove an incentive to people to relocate and settle in these areas thus easing the burden on overstretched city services.

    - OK, if you want to bring the car, then build a rail system that can hold cars. Drive it on, drive it off, and take pressure off the roads and drivers. Cork-Dublin, Dublin-Belfast, Donegal- Dublin, etc. would be excellent routes for this type of service.

    - All major roads should parallel the rail lines, if not already the case, so that there is easy on-off accessibility for heavy goods and people transport.

    - All trains should have free internet and suitable business conference facilities to incentivise business people to use the service.

    Just some initial thoughts. Yes we need good rail and roads, but we need a systematic approach to the problem, that understands the picture of social, political, technological, environmental and economic concerns.

    * On a recent article on replacing taxis over 9 years old, each taxi driver should be given a tax incentive to buy a hybrid vehicle to make small indents on air quality in the cities.

    And as I said above, every politician in this country should be on public transport on a daily basis to get an understanding of what their electorate really need.

  33. John Fitzpatrick

    I’m from south county Wicklow, and have been working and living in Edinburgh Scotland for the past 10 years. I`ve been keeping abreast of the Celtic Tiger over the years and decided to investigate the possibility of returning home to live earlier this year. Getiing a good paying job in Dublin was no problem but not being a millionaire I couldn’t afford to buy a house there so I toyed with the idea of commuting from a base in south county Wicklow only to find that this would have amounted to roughly a 5 hr round trip on the train. On the particular day of my ‘test’ run , it was a sweltering hot day, the train had no ventilation and get this, no windows that you could open. By the time I got back to Gorey I was literally soaked with sweat, with a pounding headache and gasping for air. The unbelievable thing was that there were people on that train who subjected themselves to that on a daily basis. You can have your Celtic Tiger !

  34. Aidan

    I think ireland’s parish pump politics is a critical factor in why we have such terrible infrastructure and why planning is so bad. The politicians and councillors have way too much say in how infrastructure is built. You would never see Tony Blair having to explain why a toll bridge was built or why a certain motorway is congested. This is because all those matters are dealt with by the experts not by politicians. But our politicians are not willing to hand over the task of building infrastructure to the experts, micro management and political interference are everywhere. The national roads authority still has not been given total responsibility for building roads. Local councillors can put in arbitrary speed limits or allow houses and businesses locate along these new roads therby causing sprawl and congestion to spread to these new roads. In some ways ireland has too much democracy and in areas like planning and infrastructure politics has to be taken out of the equation. That is why communist countries can have superb infrastructure. In most other democracies the process of building infrastructure is a lot less democratic than in ireland

  35. Enda

    Aidan – I agree. Likewise, is political involvement really beneficial to other public services such as health and education? Politicians love to crow when things go right (for them) but are not so willing to admit failure/ under-achievement. Even worse, when a problem is recognised – change takes too long.

  36. David J.

    Aidan- I agree that there is alot of political oversight but politicians are elected to institute the will of the people. The will of the people in the case of public infrastructure surely leans towards better rail, metro, tunnels that go somewhere, better bus service, and integrated nationwide mass transit…however private interests appear to get more influence.

  37. Colm

    What Ireland needs to do is set up systems to restrict the interference of Parish Pump politicians in the country.We went someway by abolishing the dual mandate but we need to do more.The current system of administration along county lines needs to be abolished completely.Instead give administrative power to the regional authorities and a regional capital.Change the current 29 county councils and 5 city councils to 6 regional regional authorities with a City/Metropolitan council at its centre.Too much decisiion making is influeced by GAA colours in this country and I say this as an avid GAA supporter.

    For those who think that the Greens are the panacea for Irelands infrastructure problems then they need to wake up.The Greens have resisted every vital road infrastructure project in the state.They have also resisted any attempt to streamline the planning process for critical infrastructure.I am not optimistic of improvements in Irish Transport even if there is a new government.The solutions put forward so far have by the rainbow have been shamefully unambitious and so far amounted to giving Dublin Bus 500 extra buses.All this will do is feed the monopoly monster.At least the current crowd are at least commited to funding the metro,luas etc.Irish people can’t have their cake and eat it.If you want low taxes and good transport then privatisation is inevitable.The person who put Denmark forward as an example forgets that they pay a huge amount pof income tax there.It is also half the size of Ireland with a slightly larger population.

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