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Home      NRA and the M3 part 1
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The NRA and the M3 Motorway
 
Andrew McGrath 


On its website devoted to the M3 motorway, the NRA goes to some lengths to justify the road’s construction. The NRA states: “The M3 Motorway is a key part of the plan to upgrade the overall roads network for the country. It will significantly improve road transport connections between the North West and the East of the country.” It is obvious that these statements have little or nothing to justify them. The State has rejected out of hand the idea of upgrading the existing N3 route on the most spurious grounds, even though the inconvenience, expense and destruction of heritage that would result would be minor compared to what is now underway. Neither will the road do anything except increase pressure on the already gridlocked M50 ring road.     The M3 will not “bypass” Dunshaughlin, Kells and Navan, even if this is the stated purpose of the road, for at least three reasons.
    
One reason is that, because the heavy traffic volumes between Navan and Dublin are a direct result of a short-sighted development model which focuses on land rezoning and construction to the exclusion of other factors such as proportionality and the need for balanced regional development; as a result, most of the country outside Dublin has been all but completely deindustrialized. This ensures an imbalance of infrastructure funds between Dublin and elsewhere (and hence a Dublin-centric “transport” plan for the whole of Ireland), and relentless, developer-driven sprawl which invariably takes advantage of the ill-fated attempts to decrease traffic volumes by the same means which created them in the first place.
    
Second, the “bypass” scheme as implemented throughout Ireland has proved to be an abject failure, doing little or nothing to ameliorate traffic conditions in the “bypassed” towns, because the roads are simply ad hoc measures, implemented as face-saving measures by governments. The obvious failure of the much-trumpeted bypass schemes is dismissed by government on the grounds that the grand plan will set all to rights, on the distant day when it is completed. But there is no grand plan, except that of providing bonanzas for developers while appearing to provide a transport network.
    
The third reason comes down to the importation of a model of development which has already been demonstrated as a costly failure in Britain, the example to which all redundant State eomployees look. The M3 will be built as a Privare Finance Initiative. As such, the private consortium involved in its construction must be guaranteed a return on its investment as a condition of its involvement. This means that the M3 must be tolled in not just one but two locations, and it is up to the consortium to decide what constitutes an accceptable return. Resentment for having to pay tolls on roads which are already substantially taxpayer-funded, and continue paying them for up to thirty years, spells the failure of the road even in advance of its construction.

 
Abandoning the M3 would entail a decision by the State to turn its back on an ethos to which it is firmly committed: the privatization of transport, in the form of starving public transport and thereby ensuring reliance on motor vehicles; the Private Finance Initiative to force projects through, even though the PFI entails much greater risk and expense for the taxpayer; and the planning of infrastructure to benefit construction firms, contractors and land speculators.

    
It is irresponsible to base an economy entirely around the guarantee of the endless availability of construction sites and the eternal increase of property prices. Yet this, along with making ecologically-sensitive regions a base, again at taxpayer expense, for highly toxic and dangerous multinational industries (the Aughinish alumina plant and the Corrib shell refinery are two instances), is settled state policy. These decisions are  down to a political decision rather than sound statesmanship. For that reason, such policies need to be scrapped. This would entail the abandonment, and reversal, of the current roads programme, and its substitution by comprehensive, country-wide commerical and commuter rail networks.

 
© The Tara Foundation, 2006