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Irish Examiner

Letter to the Editor - Oct 6th 2008 

The Editor
The Irish Examiner

Rail Investment will take us from one generation to the next

Your columnist, Ivan Yates (October 2) has recently taken to deriding the National Development Plan as if it were a monumental waste of public money to invest in the future of this country.

He snidely suggests that half of the NDP consists of "poor projects and white elephants".

Invariably topping the list for our born-again economic guru is the Western Rail Corridor.

The idea that his fellow tax-payers in the west might have the temerity to aspire to having a modern transport system in the 21st century appears to jar on his nerves in a way that must surely bring wry smiles to the faces of those making the 30,000 car journeys per day on the N17 between Tuam and Galway (NRA statistics). Then again, perhaps his hectic media career prevents him from listening to AA Roadwatch in the mornings.

"The problem," he says, "with euro184bn of capital expenditure is that you have to pay it back."

With respect to Mr. Yates, the Government of Ireland is not making a trip to the bookies with the taxpayers money but is seeking to invest it in much needed infrastructural development in every part of the country for the benefit of those taxpayers and of future generations.

Every cent of that investment will repay this country for generations to come through its progressive environmental impact, its regional economic impact and its daily practical utility to each and every citizen.

Writing in another national newspaper recently, no less a commentator than Mr. Seán Quinn, Ireland's most successful businessman, strongly emphasised the necessity to develop rather than stagnate.

"At Government level, I would encourage continued investment and channelling of resources into key infrastructural improvements in roads, rail, communications and energy. These areas are what will be important 20 years from now and if necessary, I would be in favour of borrowing to ensure their completion… We should never be afraid to do what is right."

While there may be projects in the NDP that Mr. Yates does not like, that does not excuse his lack of knowledge.

On Today FM he recently lumped together the Western Rail Corridor (WRC), an existing piece of national infrastructure, with the proposed Metro North as if the two bore any resemblance to each other.

The former, as outlined in Transport 21, and currently under construction, will deliver 76 miles of national primary railway infrastructure, including stations and signalling for just over euro200m while the Metro is variously estimated at somewhere between euro3bn and euro6bn.

This is not a case of comparing like with like, and it smacks of lazy soundbites rather than informed economic commentary.

It is generally accepted that the Western region has lagged behind in terms of infrastructural investment. For years now, the IDA, Ireland West Tourism and many others have been pointing out that a lack of basic infrastructure is severely hampering the development of the whole western Region.

Re-opening the WRC will make a significant contribution towards redressing this imbalance, especially since the basic infrastructure is already in place and the property already in state ownership.

In the light of rising oil prices and motoring costs, it also seems extraordinary that anyone could doubt that the linking of Galway and Limerick, the 3rd and 4th largest cities of the state by rail would not deliver value for money. It is, after all, the busiest bus route in the state.

Perhaps it is not the National Development Plan but rather the extraordinary phenomenon of Mr. Yates reinvention of himself as an expert in everything from backing horses to saving the economy that might more accurately be described as "the most under-scrutinised, over-hyped vanity project" of recent times.

Colmán Ó Raghallaigh
West on Track
Co. Mayo









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