Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

I had a thought

Posted in Infrastructure, Ireland, Politics by Chairman Pip on 5 March 2011

Regarding my previous post about the DRD not being able to find the £40m needed to upgrade the Belfast-Dublin line for 90mph running, I then had a thought. Back in December, Wolmar recounted a story regarding a plan to upgrade the A5 road, which is the major route to Dublin from the north-west of Ireland. The intention is to convert the entire 50 odd miles to brand new dual carriageway as a way of improving the travel time it takes to get from the north-west (primarily Donegal) to Dublin by an estimated 20 minutes. This project is estimated to cost around £800m, the most expensive road project ever in Northern Ireland, of which half is coming from the British government and half from the Irish government (the same Irish government that has just had to accept a massive financial bailout). When I say “the British government”, in this case it does actually mean the government in London which, under normal circumstances, would mean the DfT. But, when Wolmar spoke about the issue with Lord Adonis, who was the Transport Secretary when the proposal came up, in December 2010, apparently it was the first that the noble Lord had heard of it. This is because the scheme was thought up by the Northern Ireland Roads Service, and pushed through on the nod via the powers implemented in the St Andrews Agreement. Wolmar is of the opinion that the current A5 road is not especially in need of expansion to relieve congestion, as there isn’t all that much congestion. Assuming this is the case (and, while I may disagree with Wolmar on certain things, I would never accuse him of not getting his facts straight), then I would imagine that the DfT should be making serious appeals to the Treasury about the project, especially given that we’re in the Age of Austerity. If it is the case that the money is committed to Northern Ireland, then the DfT should insist that a caveat be added that £40m of it should go on the main line between Lisburn and Knockmore. Given that this is not only the main rail artery between Belfast and Dublin, and would therefore improve the service provided by Enterprise, but it also forms the main commuter line to Belfast from Lisburn, Portadown and Newry, and would doubtless allow better service speeds on NI Railways’ services. If the Secretary of Transportation can specify to state governors that money has to be spent of specific things, then why shouldn’t the Secretary of State for Transport? Especially given that the Dublin-Belfast main line is a more significant transport artery than the A5 road. At least as far as I see.

“The Irish Ghost Road”
“The Political Road”

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