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Friday, October 20, 2006

After Decentralisation Shambles, New Blue-Sky Plan to have the €1bn Dublin Port Tunnel to nowhere!

Politicians are much better at verbalising about grand plans than handling or taking responsibility for their implementation.

We had plans for the Bertie Bowl, west of Dublin some years ago until it dawned that a white elephant in the boondocks without an adequate transport network would be in the words of PD leader Michael McDowell: "redolent of Warsaw Pact-era thinking rather than the needs of Ireland in the 21st Century."

Let's not mention the war...eh...decentralisation...more grand plans on the back-of-an-envelope with PD President Tom Parlon in what crisis, there is no crisis mode!

One of the inhibiting factors in transforming visionary plans into action - e.g. centralising the public service on the western periphery of Dublin or building a second Dublin Airport between Dublin and Portlaoise, is politicians' fear of contemplating any change in the existing corrupt development land system and PD President is one of the strongest opponents of changing a system that gives farmers on public welfare €500,000 or more an acre for land near Irish towns. For more on this, see here.

Until a public outcry prompted action in October 2005, the control of large budgets for infrastructure and IT projects, was a joke.

"Wise" people can scoff at what is now Europe's most successful airline Ryanair and the airports they use. Perish the thought that we would consider challenging the corrupt land system and be able to build an airport that wouldn't be a rip-off for vested interests.

As to Dublin Airport, it's easy to be witless and accept the conventional situation where a second terminal at Dublin Airport is going to cost €395 million according to the official estimate - 46% above the April 2005 estimate.

It's all market forces in a country that is 4% urbanised!!

Now with the Dublin Port Tunnel years behind deadline and not yet in operation, McDowell has come up with a wheeze to move the port, even before the tunnel has opened! Long-term planning Irish style!!

McDowell told a conference in Dublin today that the Taoiseach supports a plan to gradually move Dublin Port business to North County Dublin.

There actually is nothing really new in this "visionary" plan. Gerry Duggan, an engineer who completed a thesis in which he proposed relocating to Loughshinney, where part of Dublin Port's operations already exist.

An Irish Academy of Engineering Management report noted in 2004:

The expansion of Dublin Port, from 20 million tonnes to 65 million tonnes over the last 50 years, was made possible by relocating Dublin’s 28 hectares oil zone and bulk traffic to Loughshinney (in North County Dublin). This environmentally sensitive relocation was achieved after a hard fought deal. The Port, however, was consequently able to expand and develop to provide longer, deeper berths, necessarily catering for the myriad of differing vessel configurations now operating, with adjacent serviced land and increased storage space for containers.

Blue-sky thinking is fine but there is nothing visionary about selling existing facilities to take advantage of the property boom.

Putting reforms in place for the post-property boom is the challenge that is avoided such as land development reform.

Reasonable question: 20 million passengers are expected to travel this year through Dublin Airport and Ireland's foreign direct investment promotion agency IDA Ireland, says its an embarrassment. Why did it take so long to make a relatively easy decision on providing for forecast growth? Now, months before an election, we have a new grand plan when it will take another four years to end the chaos at Dublin Airport. To economise on space, even the the restaurant/refreshment facilities have been restricted.

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