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3 November 2005 Edition

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Sceptical welcome for transport plan

BY JOANNE CORCORAN

Martin Cullen at the launch

Martin Cullen at the launch

The Dublin Government's launch of Transport 21 on Tuesday night is being widely viewed as a desperate attempt by Fianna Fáil to win the next General Election.

Transport Minister Martin Cullen announced that the new initiative will cost €34 billion over the next ten years and promised more public transport, including more Luas and Metro lines in Dublin, expanded motorways and improved rail corridors throughout the country.

Finance Minister Brian Cowen said the plan would be delivered on time and on cost, with most of the finance coming from the public tax purse.

Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Seán Crowe said he welcomed the plan in theory, but was taking a wait and see approach as to whether it would actually be implemented. "The transport system is in desperate need of an overhaul, but this plan is quite vague," he said.

"Ideas such as a metro running from Dublin Airport are welcome. Dublin may be the only airport in a capital city not served by a connecting metro. In no way should any Metro for Dublin be privatised. However, the plan is decidedly biased towards cities. Transport should not be about profit, and we would like to see this plan tackle the isolation felt in many rural areas due to lack of public transport."

The government has described Transport 21 as "radical" and "historic". But a weary Irish travelling public is more than aware that promises on this scale have been made in advance of general elections before, and the lack of paperwork and proper costing at the publicity-orientated launch, is not a good omen. It's also obvious that many of the guarantees given this week have been given previously. The motorway programme and the Dublin Metro should now, according to previous government undertakings, be almost finished.

The so-called National Development Plan is so far behind schedule that many parts of it are re-named and included in Transport 21.

The government's Luas and Port Tunnel record, which both ran way over schedule and budget, also add to the scepticism with which this new plan is being greeted.

Cullen's grand statement on Tuesday: "We will deliver. We have to," cannot gloss over the fact that his government has promised to deliver since it came to power eight years ago, and hasn't.

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