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Election Countdown

11.02.2005

Yesterdays release of a burgeoning bag of goodies in the new development plant called "transport 21", begins what will be one of the longest election campaignsince the last longest campaign ever. Simon, has done a great job of pulling the various strands together, and adding some much needed reality check to the hype.
The blurb in so many of todays papers is evidence of how much emphasis the voting public place on our ramshackle transport system. The euphoria at being told, as it seems everybody was, that the crucifying traffic, crap trains, ineffecient bus/train links and intolerable lifestyle of work, are to be gone in TEN years, is ample evidence of the votes currently residing firmly in Transport policy.
The government have stolen a march on all competitors by being in office, in a position to take action, to jump ahead and plan the next ten years in transport.
This advantage may be what they hope to push them over the finishing line in 2007. It is obvious that the dominant factors affecting the upcoming election will be the ability to motivate a large, displaced urban vote, cominig from thesuburbs of our major cities. These voters are notoriously hard to engage and motivate to vote.
It seems that by covering Transport now, having a plan at the ready for the manifesto when it comes, and the giveaway budget expected to come down the line to "hard working families" (that lovely bit of new-Labour/Clinton spin) the clear intention is the motivate out of the woodwork a previously apathetic group.
So cynical electoral politics aside, and thankful that someone is interested in moving the misery that is our traffic system, we must examine the plan. Only we cant. Its not on the website yet.
From Simons post and a variety of new sources, it seems that any transport lobby group that has kicked up fuss over the pasy couple of years has been placated in the new plan.
Trains in the west, motorway all over the shop, luas, metro and very surprisingly from Cullen, room for a vanity project under stephens green in the form of our very own Grand Central Station.
Yet the opposition spared little time in kicking the government over the plan. From RTE;
"The Opposition parties have claimed it is another example of a long-promised project being re-packaged and re-sold."
Im sure that there is an old dose of glass houses taking place here, accompanied with the bitterness of not being in a position to foist a decent transport plan on the country while in opposition.
The tone from Richard Bruton of Fine Gael is the usual criticism of costings etc, also according to the examiner;
"Fine Gael Finance spokesman Richard Bruton called it a “political con job” that rehashed all the major transport schemes the Government had failed to deliver over the past seven years"

To my mind, the Labour position is much better judged, the government is doing what is expected of it, granted in a late and perhaps eventually costly fashion. However to voters on the streets it is still something. Scepticism on delivery is a better message than the belligerent attitude of those in FG to any government policy.
In terms of the plan itself, I am delighted to see such a high commitment to quality public transport, if there is to be any commitment to getting a country moving, it lies in getting people out of cars.
Better public transport needs to be funded and efficient, deserving of its place at the heart of a development plan. Accompany this factor to the imminent tolling of inter-urban motorways and one has some form of policy resembling coherency. Encouraging motorists to pay on their way is only an option when backed up by reliable pubic transport, or alternative options. Tolling on its own, a la the east/west link where no alternative is available is not a healthy situation. I wonder how zealous the government will be in constructing tolled roads yet the laxity of putting in place capacity on the Western Corridoor or Kildare Line for example.
Criticism of the plan now however, is simply partisan politics holding little in substance, what Fianna Fail have pulled out of the hat is a bipartisan, sweeping plan designed to placate all interests and garner support among the apathetic suburban vote. If it works, it will be a masterstroke. If it works however, it will need to be seen to work and perhaps that is the difference in our politics versus 2002. The governments promises are no longer trusted at face value.
One wonders how much can be shown to the electorate come election time and will paper plans be enough?
RR
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