It is fashionable and easy to bellyache about public transport and people will do so whenever they are in Opposition. Ministers for Transport are easy targets and they have a very difficult job. I agree with much of what has been said about the improvements which have taken place in transport in the Dublin area in recent times. Not everything has been entirely welcome. There have been appalling and unforgivable delays. They have tested the customers’ patience to such an extent that it is almost at breaking point.
Luas is a more than welcome innovation. It is almost revolutionary. When I bought my first car some years ago I thought I would never travel by public transport again. One of the great advantages of getting one’s first car is that one avoided what were the horrors of public transport at the time. I now try to find a way to travel by Luas because it is so convenient, comfortable, stressless, cheap and quiet. I welcome it regardless of the cost, and I say that as someone who often complains about the cost of things.
In terms of public transport, however, it is not possible to say it was too expensive because roads, public transport, trains, buses and routes are fairly permanent and that cannot be measured in terms of a dividend or the cost to industry or individuals. One can have a rough guess at what is being saved or guess, per company, what is being saved going by various shorter routes using different means of transport but the actual amount it benefits the nation is inestimable. We cannot tell what it is and in that sense the Luas is a great innovation because we cannot measure in terms of money its benefit to the country, the traffic or the reduction in numbers it effects.
Despite the immense improvement made in the Luas, and the welcome intervention by the Minister to link the two Luas lines, I am anxious that Dublin University, which is not my constituency but is somewhere in which I have a great interest, should not have some of its territory taken from it. It would be very wrong if we decided, willy-nilly, to excise some of that territory without the co-operation and agreement of Dublin University. We have to be careful that modern transport does not interfere with the great heritage we are privileged to have.