A history of under-investment in public transport has forced Irish people to choose between using creaking public transport infrastructure and spending hours every day sitting in private cars in some of the most congested streets in Europe. Reversing this pattern of underinvestment is a challenge, but we believe that doing so is both worthwhile and possible.
The most pressing task is to deliver a new National Development Plan. The current plan, released by the Fine Gael government in 2018, fails to demonstrate how we will meet our internationally agreed emissions reduction targets. The most harmful element of the plan is a €6.6 billion investment in major roads projects. That is €6.6 billion that could be used to improve people’s quality of life while simultaneously meeting environmental objectives. Instead, it will exacerbate air pollution, clog up our towns and cities and expose us to crippling climate fines from the international community.
Our policy is to reallocate the capital transport budget so that 10% is spent on walking infrastructure, 10% on cycling infrastructure and the remainder is split 2:1 in favour of public transport over road building and maintenance.
The cornerstone of our public transport policy is a massive extension and upgrading of the rail network, including the electrification existing lines and the development of light rail systems in Cork and Galway. We have a vision for a connected Ireland in which rail transport is a real option for most people in rural Ireland. We will, therefore, prioritise a review of derelict train lines throughout the country with a view to revitalising and reopening some routes. We will also set out a timetable and work programme for commuter rail improvements in Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford City.
Improvements are also required in Dublin and its commuter belt. Among the upgrades we consider particularly important are the following:
- The northern commuter line from the existing end of the DART network in Malahide past Drogheda;
- The line from Heuston past Hazelhatch and completion of this line between Inchicore and Park West;
- The line from Connolly past Maynooth;
- The Kildare Route Project Phase 2 and the Navan Railway Line (extension from M3 Parkway).
We will also progress various other infrastructure projects such as the construction of the Metro North from North of Swords to the South of Ranelagh Luas station and initiate an immediate review of the three options for extending the Metro further South from there. We will advance the appraisal, planning and design of the Luas to Bray, Lucan, Poolbeg, and Blanchardstown (via Finglas). Finally, we will reconsider the case for the underground DART Interconnector between Spencer Dock and Inchicore.
Another key element of our public transport policy is bus transport. We will scale up the Rural Transport Programme (Local Link) and reverse the decision to charge for the Primary and Post-Primary Schools Transport Schemes to improve connectivity in rural Ireland. In Dublin, we will continue to support and engage with the BusConnects project and its ongoing consultation with communities to ensure that facilitating walking and cycling and creating a quality environment are primary goals of the project.
In addition to electrifying our rail network, we support the rollout of electric and low-emission hybrid bus fleets. This would greatly improve air quality in our towns and cities and would help to store energy generated from variable renewable sources.