My submission on Navan Rail Line to the Draft Transport Strategy 2016 – 2035 for the Greater Dublin Area

TO WHOM IT CONCERNS

Submission to the Draft Transport Strategy 2016 – 2035 for the Greater Dublin Area

by Minister Damien English T.D.

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation

Fine Gael T.D. for Meath West

Thursday, 12th November 2015

I write further to your call for written submissions or observations on the Draft Transport Strategy 2016 – 2035 for the Greater Dublin Area which has been prepared by the National Transport Authority in accordance with Section 12 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008.

Since becoming involved in politics, as a member of Meath County Council in 1999, and as a member of Dail Eireann since 2002, I have always campaigned for, advocated for and highlighted the need for a rail line to Navan. It is an idea that commands cross party, cross community and cross sectoral support in Co. Meath, as I am sure the range of submissions you will receive on this matter will highlight.

I believe that your analysis in the Draft Transport Strategy, of the transport needs of Co. Meath as regards the expansion of rail services to Navan is fundamentally flawed. It lacks recognition of the current and future jobs situation in Meath, it lacks ambition and it lacks vision. It reflects a short term analysis and ‘sticky plaster solution’ for what are long term needs and long terms trends. We have had too much of this in the past as regards the potential of a rail line for Navan, with the resources of good times in this country not used at the appropriate time to live up to promises and commitments previously given.

The dismissal of further rail services in Co. Meath to Navan, and Dunshaughlin en route, in your current draft actually goes against the tone and ideals the strategy sets for itself.

In Chapter 5, Page 5, it talks about how: “The Strategy needs to consider how best to target areas of population where public transport access to the city centre and other major centres of employment remains poor.” In this regard Navan is the only County Town in the Greater Dublin/North Eastern Region not served by rail. The County Town’s of Louth (Dundalk), Wicklow (Wicklow Town) and Kildare (Naas via nearby Sallins) are all served by rail, as well as other significant population centres in those Counties (Maynooth, Drogheda, Bray, Greystones etc.) Meath and Navan are not being treated in a equitable manner as commuter hubs, as locations for FDI, and as locations where reverse commuting can actually take place, with commuters leaving Dublin for work in Navan, thus helping Dublin traffic congestion, and deepening the spread of economic recovery into the regions.

Also in Chapter 5, Page 5 we are told that “The Strategy needs to examine how to lock in the economic benefits of new transport infrastructure by maintaining journey times

and reliability.” The events on the M50 yesterday, Wednesday 11th November 2015, demonstrate how vulnerable Dublin, and greater Dublin, are to events on the M50 and on other major arterial routes into and out of the City, with traffic disruption of up to 7 hours for some people. These types of delays and vulnerabilities are not the type of thing our business community want to hear, or potential investors.

Bus transport, it must be said, has grown in the quality of the buses and frequency of service to Dublin over recent years. The draft strategy Is wrong though, in my opinion, in its overemphasis on bus as the single solution to Co. Meath’s transport needs up to 2035. Bus is totally dependent on road transport. It is vulnerable to the same shocks and surprises of poor weather or tragic accidents that a motor car is. Traffic volumes are also going to keep increasing, in line with our population growth, and our employment and overall economic growth. Rail is a sensible, reliable and environmentally friendly way of meeting both Meath’s transport needs and alleviating traffic congestion in Dublin.

It is disappointing that the draft strategy seems to be unaware of Meath County Council’s new Economic Development Strategy for Co. Meath 2014-2022, which was officially launched in June this year by my party colleague Meath County Council’s then Cathaoirleach, Cllr Jim Holloway. This plan aims to create 7,500 new jobs in Meath over the lifetime of the plan, approximately 1,000 new jobs a year.

With the winning of Facebook’s 2nd Data Centre for Europe in Clonee in Co. Meath, and our County having one of the fastest falls in unemployment in the country, this plan is clearly working. But it needs the capacity, the reliability and the connectivity of rail to enhance this plan and Meath’s offering. Rail will improve access, it will encourage reverse commuting, and it will also improve one of the most vital assets in winning FDI – overall quality of life and services in a County.

I would welcome, and strongly urge, a revision of your draft document, to make provision for the continuation of the rail line from Pace outside Dunboyne, to Navan via Dunshaughlin as originally planned and committed to by previous Governments. Indeed it is regrettable that this was not done as an integral one stage process. This would have significantly enhanced the attractiveness and usage of the current line. Presently when people get as far as Pace, they feel they may as well continue on to Dublin when they are so close. Short term thinking and cost cutting as happened in this instance has had long term consequences.

Additionally, the Dunboyne line at Pace needs to continue into Connolly Station for maximum effectiveness, attractiveness and connectivity. This is something that your strategy should reflect and act upon too.

In making your decision I would hope that you take on board my concerns, which as a Public Representative for Meath represent the thoughts and needs of many thousands of my constituents, as well as the wider business community active in creating jobs locally, and those who wish to do so in future years. The work put into this by Meath County Council, and by individual Councillors of all parties and none, as well as other interested parties and local experts will no doubt be reflected in the response to your public consultation, and deserves serious study and consideration.

I hope that you will share your thoughts on the submissions received before any final document is published or decisions taken, thus making this a truly public consultation and exchange or expertise and views.

Thanking you in advance.

Yours sincerely,

_______________________

Minister Damien English T.D.

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation

Fine Gael T.D. for Meath West

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s