Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Insane Metro - Disaster For Dublin...

The Metro is an insane idea -- and a disaster for Dublin...

We've been bombarded with cataclysmic figures for the past two years, all of which related to financial obligations caused by our past blunders. Many of you were clearly unaware that the Metro represents an entirely voluntary leap into a fresh and cataclysmic debt that could bring disaster to Dublin.

Now, no one would back a plan to build a huge coal-fired power station that had been conceived before global warming. So why is this technically bankrupt State hoping to build an underground rail link from St Stephen's Green to Dublin Airport which was conceived before the financial meltdown?

We are borrowing €20bn a year merely to run the State and to pay civil servants' salaries and pensions. And yet we still propose to build the Metro?

This is not rational behaviour, but akin to the conduct of an alcoholic who has foresworn alcohol totally -- apart, that is, from the open-ended credit-card account with Tesco wines, beers and spirits.

Tens of thousands of people are repaying mortgages that are vastly greater than their homes are worth. Unemployment is rocketing, as entire swathes of the secondary economy -- restaurants, shops, taxi companies, solicitors -- are collapsing.

Yet the Government, nonetheless, determinedly proceeds with the most expensive infrastructural project in the history of the capital.

Official estimates for the Metro declare that it will cost €5bn. Is this figure as much value as government estimates for earlier projects?

The Dublin Port Tunnel went from an estimated cost of €220m in 2000 to €580m in 2002, then to a final cost of €789m -- some 350pc of the original estimate. The M50 widening increased from €190m to €560m: 300 pc of the estimate. The Luas went up from €290m to €750m.

So all government predictions are in the realm of how long is a piece of string?

Therefore, allowing (modestly) that the Metro will probably cost 300pc of the original estimate, the final bill will be about €15bn. But this is not even like squandering money on a greenfield site in north county Dublin. No, the project requires a series of major assaults on the streetscape of Dublin and on the already-bleeding commercial centre around Grafton Street.

Sit down, while you read what is being proposed: a vast underground station beneath St Stephen's Green. This will require the destruction of the Green, the felling of its trees and its probable closure for two years. During this time, the removal of waste from beneath the Green will require 400 lorry movements a day through the city-centre's narrow streets to some dump in the greater Dublin area. And which lucky rural community will be the beneficiary of these thousands of lorries a week, unloading millions of tons of spoil a year?

This would have been barking at the height of the boom: but now we are borrowing nearly €60m a day to keep the State going, it is the kind of insane and Gothic fantasy that Hitler might have entertained as the Soviet tanks were rolling towards the fuehrer-bunker.

For at no point does the Stephen's Green scheme touch reality in terms of the commercial needs of an already crippled city centre, the actual transport requirements of airline passengers or what is financially possible for the Irish State.

NOW, I don't think that the civil-service mandarins who are backing the Metro scheme (along with the Greens, who are, of course, actually clinically mad) are doing so because they are consciously thinking of their own personal needs. But it's hard not to conclude that a huge collective unconscious is driving this desire to locate the transport hub at the very heart of the civil service. For nobody lives in St Stephen's Green (apart from guests in the Shelbourne Hotel, to which we can probably wave a fond farewell). Otherwise, there's no reason to make it THE underground hub for the Dart and Luas lines.

A rival hub -- where Dart and Luas and buses and mainline rail all converge -- already exists, although it is where almost no senior civil servant could find it, even on the map -- for it's north of the Liffey, at the Store Street-Amiens Street junction.

Further official figures will presumably be trotted out to justify the Metro, but most of these are soviet in their meaninglessness.

For example, the National Roads Authority -- those fine fellows who have just built a thousand miles of motorway without a single petrol pump -- routinely finish their projects ahead of their own schedules. Well, if you asked the NRA planners what time a rugby match will end, they'll invariably say: "Oh, about four hours after kick-off" and then be acclaiming themselves at the "early" whistle. So despite recent and very selective NRA claims, virtually all traffic flow is falling dramatically across the State.

The statistical projections which made the Metro notionally viable (and only then in the hallucinogenic fantasies of officialdom) are now as meaningful as Chad's military designs on Nebraska.

"Metro", means "mother" and "-polis" means city: "metropolis" therefore means "mother of the city". But if this insane scheme goes ahead, this underground line will probably be called "Necro".

Article by Kevin Myers - Irish Independent

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