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From Trams to Chaos

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In the beginning, trams ran on rails across Dublin city.
And buses started travelling on roads throughout the city.
And a DART appeared and ran north-south along existing rail lines.
And then Luas began running to the south and west on different tracks.
And next came (quality) bus corridors but few new buses or park-and-ride.
And, as road traffic continued to grow, congestion increased and commute times lengthened.
And then came plans for more Luas, a Metro, an underground rail link and more bus corridors.
And chaos reigned supreme as no one took charge and the buses, Luas, Metro and rail all went their merry ways.

LUAS - Really Breaking Even?

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Richard Curran's report on Luas (25th June 2006) indicated that the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) had not been directed by government to recover its capital expenditure and non-operating costs. It quotes the RPA as saying that "no toll road in the world for example has recovered its capital costs". Has the RPA never heard of the East and West Links and is the National Roads Authority not endeavouring to do exactly that with its tolls? Imagine, ESB constructing a power station and only charging for the cost of fuel and local labour, or Aer Lingus ignoring the cost of aircraft when setting ticket prices. I suppose that this approach is only to be expected given Minister Seamus Brennan's suggested on Prime Time that Luas was "planned on the back of an envelope".

Letter published by the Sunday Business Post on 2nd July 2006.


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Yesterday's headline to the article about Luas - Studies show that Luas makes economic sense - made me see red (ink) as it made no reference to the expectation that the capital cost of Luas could exceed €750m - equivalent to about twelve times Dublin Bus's annual subsidy.

A few basic assumptions can be used to illustrate the economic nonsense of Luas. Let us assume that it carries about 30,000 passengers a day (versus 500,000 for Dublin Bus and 90,000 for the DART); that interest and depreciation rates each run at 4% a year; that the invested capital is repaid over 25 years; and that a fare of about €1.50 per trip covers all operating and related costs etc. On this basis, the real cost of a Luas ticket is about €8.60, over five times the proposed fare! How does this make economic sense (except to the tiny minority that will use the service)? On this basis, it would be cheaper to give free taxi and bus vouchers to all prospective LUAS users for decades to come.

Once again, our policy makers have lost the plot. No amount of spinning, huffing and puffing will ever justify Luas. As a massive "white elephant", Luas should have been scrapped. The funds could have been used to provide more buses and a larger subsidy to Dublin Bus to benefit of ALL commuters in Dublin instead of just a tiny minority.

Dublin's Traffic Mess

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Congratulations to the Director of Traffic at Dublin Corporation for bolting the stable door by telling the Kenmare Economics Conference last weekend that buses are still the solution to Dublin's traffic problems.

Why wasn't this view fully considered before the "powers that be" decided to invest €650 million (and counting) in LUAS? If we add the current debacle over the DART's weekend closures (investment of €170 million plus), the height of the Port Tunnel (€450 million) and the on/off debate about a Metro (several billion), one must wonder whether anybody has a clue as to what should be done about Dublin's traffic.

Surely the time is long, long past for the establishment of a single authority to assume total responsibility for all aspects of traffic and public transport in Greater Dublin.  This body might be set up on an ad hoc basis but progressively it should acquire real powers. In the long run, it is unlikely to be effective unless it controls (or, at least, supervises) Dublin Bus, LUAS and DART and has a significant say about traffic and related matters with the four local authorities and other interests which together and separately are making such an utter mess of Dublin's traffic .

Dublin's Traffic

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Congratulations to Dublin City Council on their tactic of creating the controversial new road signs. This has been an excellent smoke screen and distraction from the underlying issue, namely, that traffic in Dublin is atrocious and can only deteriorate further as time passes. Like jam tomorrow, it will never get better as we are playing catch up for too many years of neglect. Forcing extra traffic onto the canal roads or into Gardner Street is like re-arranging deck chairs on the proverbial Titanic.

Where is the grand plan for Dublin's traffic?  The two major projects underway at the moment, the Port Tunnel and Luas, have a combined capital cost of about €1,000,000,000 (yes, nine noughts) before taking account of their ongoing operating costs. At best, they will be useful localised solutions notwithstanding that some observers suggest that  the Tunnel may be too low and Luas may be only as effective as a few  additional Quality Bus Corridors. One way or another, this massive expenditure fails to address the wider traffic problems in Dublin.

Where are the real solutions that have been talked about for years - park and ride, integrated ticketing, liberalised bus system, decentralisation, interchanges, flexible rolling stock and so on?  Above all, where is the central and accountable authority to take on all the vested interests and to plan and manage ALL aspects of Greater Dublin's traffic on an integrated basis?

Lead letter in the Irish Independent on 29th August 2002.


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Maybe the colour of the Luas trams should be white and the Sandyford Luas line should finish at Stadium Ireland where a zoo could be established for white elephants, pet projects and wild ventures.

I think that  the proposed investment in these inflexible trams and their highly specialised (and temporary) and unsightly infrastructure should have been spent on additional buses, better bus services and subsidised bus fares pending the development of a metro-based solution.

The €430 million allocated in the National Development Plan for just three Luas lines contrasts sharply with the €220 million to be invested in the bus network for all of Dublin.  In 1999, the cost of running Dublin Bus was €113 million and its subsidy was only €13 million. For the money being invested in Luas, the proposed investment in buses could have been doubled and the balance of €210 million used to provide bigger subsidies and better services for many, many years to come. Is it too late for reason to prevail?

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