Sunday 19 January 2020

Hikes put State plan for transport on wrong road

Photo: PA
Photo: PA

For some time now there have been various official stratagems to impose a sort of 'carmageddon' on motorists in urban areas. The aim appears to be either to entice and/or coerce drivers to ditch the car and avail of public transport. The notional contract between the commuter and the State has it that alternative, reliable public transport would be provided at a competitive price.

So, the driver parks at the train station, reducing congestion that is choking the life out of our cities. Or so the story goes - but now look at the reality. Inflation is static, yet from this week it will cost 17pc more to park at most urban train stations. As to affordable, comfortable commuting? One must shell out €40.10 for a seven-day rail ticket - a 50pc increase since 2010.

Instead of inducing more drivers who use InterCity or Dart services to abandon their cars, it will make them think again about resorting to them.

Irish Rail claims that these are the first rises in three years. And to be fair, the State body has also suffered a significant cut in the government subvention it gets. But such increases will discourage rather than encourage passengers. This is a strange way to attract more people to use public transport. Commuters are getting no improvement in service from the increase. Our fares are already up to twice as expensive as those in other EU states.

Given the stated commitment to ease congestion and help fight climate change, there is clearly a disconnect between stated government policy and transport pricing.

If more people are to use rail services, then surely the cost must be kept as competitive as possible? Ramping up charges will have the opposite effect.

We need a coherent and consistent approach to public transport policy and its funding. Currently, it is a bit like the city traffic - just when you think we might be getting somewhere, we are hit with another jam.

Europe’s migrant crisis lives on after the 'Jungle'

After travelling thousands of kilometres across continents and seas to get to Europe, migrants were again on the move yesterday. The occupants of the ‘Jungle’, the makeshift refugee camp in the north of France, were moved to reception centres around the country. The fate of these asylum seekers remains unclear.

Following the evacuation, the French authorities will dismantle the squalid camp – a symbol of Europe’s failure to resolve the refugee crisis.

At its peak, up to 10,000 people lived there – the population of a medium-sized Irish town. Before the evacuation, the population was 6,000 to 8,000.

The unofficial policy of largely ignoring the camp and hoping it would go away certainly didn’t work. A humanitarian disaster was averted by aid organisations and voluntary associations assisting the residents.

The French were left in a highly invidious position. Calais was the destination for so many because they actually wanted to get to Britain. Many will now settle for France – if they are allowed to stay.

For now, the Jungle is consigned to history. Its legacy remains. Europe’s refugee crisis continues, with hundreds of new hopefuls arriving from Africa, the Middle East and Asia on a daily basis.

Brexit means Britain doesn’t want to be part of a solution and there’s a lack of will in France and Germany to be seen to take any step that will attract more desperate souls.

Irish Independent

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