Sunday 26 January 2020

Paul Melia: Politicians are failing to keep the capital moving

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Paul Melia

What will it take for the Government to tackle growing traffic volumes on Dublin's M50?Clearly, despite the delays exacerbated by collisions in the morning and evening peaks, there is little impact on focusing minds.

The 2014 warnings about 'safe operational capacity' being exceeded at some sections of the road have largely been ignored by those in power.

So can it be inferred that multi-vehicle pile-ups are required before something is done?

Or perhaps fatalities?

Less than a decade ago the M50 was notorious for delays, although things improved slightly as traffic volumes dropped during the recession.

But the recession is over and businesses need swift travel options around the capital, and out to the regions.

Today, M50 traffic volumes are back to boom-time levels and at times it resembles a car park with nothing moving.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Yet the Government refuses to do anything to reduce the number of vehicles using the country's busiest road.

While Transport Infrastructure Ireland is undertaking an important measure to help improve traffic flows, variable speed limits will not be introduced until 2019.

The system will alert motorists to an incident on a particular section of the road well in advance, and instruct them to reduce their speed and move to a specific lane to allow emergency services to attend and keep vehicles moving.

It can also be used in periods of heavy demand, but gantries will have to be procured and installed, and software tested before the system goes live.

The State is clearly intent on allowing vehicles to continue using the road unfettered, which will add to the problem.

It has ruled out introducing tolls or other disincentives.

Clearly, the answer is public transport.

But it's telling that the subvention to Bus Eireann, Irish Rail and Dublin Bus increased by just €31m in the Budget.

That won't make up for the cuts of recent years, and will not do anything to help encourage take-up of these services.

More money is clearly needed, and more services required, and research is needed on where the gaps are.

So why not have a public transport day, where everyone in the GDA who would usually drive the M50 instead takes the bus, Luas or train to work, school, college or for leisure?

The State could subsidise services to encourage take-up, and employers asked to facilitate workers who are making the switch.

In return, the public would provide feedback to the public transport companies and National Transport Authority on how they found the service, and how it could be better planned.

Climate change minister Denis Naughten has suggested such a measure, and it makes sense. Of course, that's not to say it will happen.

Building roads or increasing capacity isn't the answer.

More public transport - and sticks for those who refuse to get out of their cars - is what will ultimately solve this problem.

Irish Independent

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