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Transport Plan to Remove M3 Tolls, Accelerate Rail Link with Government
Friday September 19, 2008 22:10 by Brian Guckian & Tadhg Crowley
MODIFICATIONS to the current M3 construction project that would remove tolls, improve quality of life and facilitate the early building of the Navan Rail Link remain on the table with government and can be implemented at any time, according to the promoters of the innovative Meath MASTER Plan, transport researcher Brian Guckian and environmental campaigner Tadhg Crowley.
The promoters lodged the comprehensive Plan with several government departments and Meath Co. Council a year ago, and both the Ministers for Transport and the Environment are to be questioned on its progress when the Dail resumes at the end of the month.
They disputed recent remarks made by Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey TD who claimed that the current M3 project would improve the quality of life of Meath-based commuters: "In fact it is the Meath MASTER Plan - currently on the Minister's desk - that would cut journey times and ensure safer journeys; the unsustainable, costly, large-scale motorway thronged with traffic represented by the current double-tolled M3 project would actually make journeys slower overall and quality of life much worse for those forced to use it", they stated.
The MASTER Plan would inherently create more local jobs, reducing the need for so many local people to travel long-distances to a job in Dublin, a problem which was not being acknowledged nor addressed by the government nor by the Minister. The toll-free, sustainable transport measures set out in the Plan would give the public more healthy and less stressful travel options by rail and by coach, whilst at the same time cutting traffic volumes in the region.
The plan promoters have also contradicted recent claims made by Meath County Council Director of Economic Development, Kevin Stewart, that the double-tolled M3 would improve access to Dublin for north Meath. "Again, on the contrary, it is the measures detailed in the Meath MASTER Plan that would bring about a boost to businesses and improved regional access, not the current M3 project as Mr. Stewart claims", they said.
More roads would just mean more congestion in the Dublin region - estimated to cost up to € 2.5 billion per annum by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce - and within Meath due to the increased number of cars that a large-scale motorway would encourage. This would bring a negative economic impact instead of a beneficial one, as was being claimed by the Council.
In contrast, a combination of road, rail and coach services, immediately implemented by way of the MASTER Plan, would by far increase access to Meath, and also local job creation in the areas of heritage tourism, sustainable business practices and local market farming would keep Meath euros at home, overcoming the destructive government practice of focusing the majority of new business development away from the regions and towards Dublin.
However instead the Council was destroying valuable farmland and heritage resources that could bring valuable revenue to the county, and by way of the current M3 project, were actually ensuring that revenues would continue to be taken out of the county by encouraging ever-greater long-distance commuting.
Mr. Guckian and Mr. Crowley said the Meath MASTER Plan would additionally protect the Tara-Skryne (Gabhra) Valley and allowed for reconstruction of national monuments such as that at Lismullin for educational and tourism purposes as well as the creation of a UNESCO World Heritage Park.
By cutting traffic in the Navan - Dublin corridor by up to two-thirds and offering choice of rail, coach and toll-free road transport modes, the MASTER Plan would substantially reduce CO2 emissions, costly congestion and oil consumption. It would also generate estimated tourism revenues of at least € 70 million per annum, cut journey times and would faciliate improved, sustainable access to the region.
It uses the existing "footprint" of the M3, avoiding any re-routing and retaining bypasses of Dunshaughlin and Navan.
Meath residents could save up to € 2600 per annum in tolls, plus additional amounts in fuel costs and other charges, if the Plan was implemented.
Overall, quality of life would be improved, with more local jobs created and more healthy and less stressful journeys made possible via the rail and coach options, and with traffic substantially reduced on the regional road network.