“White elephant on tracks”

We don’t need rail in Dublin, buses will do, and rail projects are “white elephants.” Rail is a waste and will cost us dearly, we can’t afford it. Does this sound familiar? From Dart to Luas and now Metro North, the story from the opposition is the same.

The record seems to be playing the same tune even after Dart, Luas, and Commuter rail have proven hugely successful and proven their opposition wrong. Here’s an opinion article from the Sunday Independent on June 3, 1979:

So the electrification of the Dublin-Bray suburban line has been approved. There can be few projects in the history of the State for which there was less jusification. Here we had a railway line which does about 2% or urban transport and in doing so loses nearly as much money as do the Dublin buses, which carry twenty times as many passengers.

The line is wasteful of fuel; there is good evidence to show that petroleum imports whould be saved if it were closed and all its passengers used cars, one person to a car.

So what does the government do? Does it put more money into the more economic bus services, which serve the poorer areas? Not on your life. It proposes to spend nearly £50m, much of it on imported machinery, so that even more — four times more — half-empty trains parade up and down the line, using a system (electrication) which is inherently less fuelefficient than the current diesel system — and far less efficient than buses.

You and I — the taxpayers — would have to fork out less if instead of electrifing it the government bought a brand-new car for each of the line’s present adult passengers to do their suburban travel in; and in doing so they would use less fuel than the proposed system would.

The article went on to argue against the wider Dart project proposed at the time. The Dublin Rail Rapid Transit Study (DRRTS) recommended a phased expansion of Dart to other parts of Dublin. Click on the image to enlarge it in all of its glory and typographical errors:

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