February 15th 2016
There is a need to deliver jobs, education, housing and other services to people. Transport is a key facilitator of each of these.
Traffic expands to fill available space. If a new road is built, it will eventually fill with traffic. Nowhere is this more obvious than with major roads in Dublin, in particular, the M50. Through the recession, traffic levels have been maintained and increased on these roads - any available space was taken by users moving from public transport to cars. As the economy now grows, this leaves little or no capacity. This will lead to more congestion, longer journey times and a greater risk of incidents having a disproportionate effect.
As much of the growth in economic activity is in internationally-traded, high-technology sectors, where Dublin is competing with peer cities internationally, these are not jobs that can be relocated within Ireland. The risk is that the jobs will be lost to Ireland.
There is a need to act in a smarter fashion - the first, cheapest or popular option is not always the best option. While there is a need to think things out properly, there is also a need to not procrastinate or hand-wring.
The transport system must become customer orientated. The passenger is the primary customer of the transport system. Current customer service standards are generally poor and expenditure has not necessarily been customer-orientated.
The rule of law must be upheld. Whether anti-social behaviour, collisions with trams caused be cars running traffic lights and failures by transport operators to live up to their responsibilities there have been consistent failures. In certain cases, the law needs to be updated.
The transport system must be subjected to greater democratic oversight, in particular by those who pay for and use the system.
There is a need to balance capital & current costs, fares and other income. Increases in any of these need to focused on delivering services to passengers.
Since the last General Election Rail Users Ireland has noted that the issue of Anti-Social behaviour on the DART, Luas, Suburban and Intercity Rail has become more of an issue than ever.
Passengers, especially women, do not feel safe on trains after rush hour. Individuals and gangs take advantage of the isolation and the lack of escape from train and tram carriages, seemingly secure in the knowledge that there is little chance that they will be apprehended by the system's security personnel. Even then, they can take advantage of the fact that tough looking and imposing as the security are, they are not members of An Garda Siochana, and they do not exist outside of the Luas and DART system.
Rail Users Ireland called for the provision of a dedicated Transport Police in our Election Demands for 2011. Then we predicted that the levels of anti-social behaviour on the trains was set to increase. We repeat this call again in 2016. The passengers of all of our trains have a right to feel secure in their travel, the right to travel without fear. Any party who neglects this is neglecting the safety of their own citizens.
The mere existence of a Transport Police gives security and peace of mind to thousands of rail users, to see them even on random patrol solidifies this. It is not even a question of costs or resources, we believe that a bare minimum can be provided from existing budgets, all that is needed is the political will to do so.
This could be funded in part by applying a levy against all transport operators similar to how the Rail Safety Commission is funded. If implemented the transport operators would be able to scale back or eliminate their use of private security and related costs and increase income through the tackling of fare evasion.
Over the years, we have grown fond of referring to our economy like it is a person, and that of the Dublin area as its beating heart. We use terms such as arteries to describe the railways and roads within it, and the commuters who use them as the lifeblood of the body.
If that is the case, then the rail arteries are congealed, they are a heart attack waiting to happen. We see it almost on a weekly basis when something goes wrong on the DART / Suburban network, delays which can last for hours. The system breaks down. We also see it in the overloaded services on the network at rush hour, and as the economic recovery focuses more and more on the Dublin region we see that bypasses and angioplasty are needed. Maybe even a transplant.
There are 20 DART carriages not in service in due to cutbacks which have meant that they require servicing. At current levels that is five peak-hour trains missing. Overcrowding leads to missed trains, which leads to people leaving the service, which leads to other forms of congestion. For the sake of 20 carriages, that is an unhealthy lifestyle. A further 27 modern commuter carriage lie abandoned while passengers are left standing or worse, left behind.
Last year the government announced the abandonment of DART Underground - the most comprehensive and widely acknowledged solution to the present and future transport problems in the Dublin region. If the DART Underground was scrapped for sound transport and infrastructure reasons it would be one thing, but it was scrapped for the costs of the giveaways in the 2015 and 2016 Budgets and it has been proposed to be replaced, if at all, within 15 years by a 'yellow pack' alternative.
One day DART Underground, or a scheme very close to it, will happen. If it does not the Dublin area will have its major 'heart attack' and business will go elsewhere. By then it will cost a multiple of what it costs now. The same mistake regarding cross-city Luas is about to be made again, and for relatively little costs DART Underground can be started this year. We have seen many times in the past that 'yellow pack' rail solutions (and road ones like the M50) will always need to be replaced by what was originally proposed.
This is a golden opportunity for a Government to act, to provide an infrastructure stimulus to the economy at a time when construction costs are cheaper then they will be for the foreseeable future. Then we can have a 10-minute DART timetable which actually works, trains through the Phoenix Park Tunnel which makes sense and the provision of the Rail Users Ireland proposal of a line to Dublin Airport.
Otherwise, we will need the national defibrillator.
Car Parking / Validation
It has been a long-term goal of successive governments to take cars off the road and to get their drivers into public transport.
An essential element of that has been the provision of car parking at rail and Luas stops, known as 'park and ride'. Some park and ride stations have had a charge for the car park since they have opened, for example, the Red Cow facility on the Luas line. Others, in fact, many others had car parking charges heaped upon them around the same time that the Public Service Obligation grant was cut, and at the same time that passenger numbers started to decline as the recession took hold.
Although the stated aim was to prevent their car parks being used by people other than rail users, the fact is that in many places railway car parks are not in any convenient places for those who would be using them for shopping or working nearby. Whilst the price for car parking, in theory, has been set higher than that of the nearby towns it is not true in all cases, especially in Dublin.
Rail Users Ireland are of the belief that car parking charges have nothing to do with warding off unwanted visitors and users and are all about sweating extra money from rail passengers. We believe that they are counter-productive and actually ward off potential commuter passengers. We believe and call upon the political parties to support such a system in that it is perfectly possible for genuine rail users to avail of a ticket validation system which allows them free parking at the stations. In such a system, rail passengers would get free or heavily discounted parking, while other car park users would not.
This system will deter non-users, reward current users and attract new users.
Where are the Phoniex Park Tunnel service details?
Rail Users Ireland from it is foundation in 2003 (then known as Platform 11) has highlighted over and over the presence of a railway line linking Heuston and Connolly stations in Dublin which Irish Rail refuses to operate scheduled passenger services. This provides a much-needed link which would ease the commute of many passengers. While not a replacement for the DART Underground project, service can be provided tomorrow if Irish Rail agreed.
After 11 years of highlighting this incredible omission in the rail service, finally the National Transport Authority has instructed Irish Rail to provide a service.
Yet, less than six months before expected introduction of the service, there has been no consultation on the timetable arrangements, nor are there any spare trains available to run the service. Considerable funding will be required to overhaul trains currently lying out of use, those in charge have yet to realise this.
It is time that firm commitments were obtained to ensure, after more than a decade waiting, that passengers will finally be able to travel from Kildare and West Dublin to central Dublin without needing to change trains.