By Michael Dwyer
In the nineteen eighties Sean Barret, professor of transport economics in Trinity and old friend of the EBI suggested that the multimillion pound state subvention to CIE be discontinued and the money used instead to buy everyone in the Republic a car.
He spoke of course half in jest and whole in earnest. What was a good idea thirty years ago seems like a better idea today. Then we had bad surfaces, narrow carriageways and no motorways. The train to Dublin took about the same for me as the car and less than the snail paced bus.
Today the train journey has not shortened by a minute but the road journey has halved in time. The combination of motorway, express routes and bus lanes mean I can be in the city centre in seventy five minutes travelling in a very comfortable coach with Wi-Fi naturally.
We all love a train. It is a wonderful way to go from A to B. It can be relaxing. The scenery on the Dublin Rosslare route I cannot recommend highly enough. Hell you can even have a little drink. It’s just not a very efficient way.
This is a Victorian technology and it is time for it to go the way of the child sweep and the gentleman cricketer. Ireland has never been well adapted to rail. The Island is too small and the population is too dispersed to create truly economic intercity routes. The commuter routes around the larger population centres, may, perhaps, be viable but that should be looked at with real transparent costings. As for the rest, well today with our expensive road network, they represent cost without even the redeeming feature of social utility. We could always turn them into a transisland bicycle network. That’s nineteenth century tech. that seems to be going strong without costing the taxpayer a dime.
Two further points, in the first place Mr. Dwyer really does speak Italian! Secondly, I publish his piece with some reluctance. As the proud user of free travel card, I love being wafted through the enchantments of the Irish countryside. The journey from Arklow to Dublin is particularly beautiful at this time of the year because of the finely coloured foliage alongside which the train travels, ! I love too the taste of the Danish pastry and the fine coffee which is available on the train- for which, though, I do have to pay. Mostly though I love the lordly sense that someone else is paying for my indulgence- so perhaps Mr. Dwyer is making a moral point too!