Fantasy? Ok maybe. But one can dream, and indeed Ireland should be dreaming, and dreaming big. Imagine being able to travel from Limerick to Dublin in 28 minutes, Cork to Dublin in 36 minutes, or Galway to Dublin in 29 minutes. Or what about Galway to Limerick in 13 minutes, or Galway to Cork in 27 minutes. You could leave the office in the IFSC at 5:30pm and be back in Dooradoyle, Douglas or Salthill in time for tea. You could pop up to Dundrum with the family on a Saturday and be back at home in Limerick, Cork or Galway in time for X-Factor. You could access Dublin’s museums, hospitals and sports facilities, and students could study in one city and live at home with Mom and Dad in their home town.
According to Daft.ie there are now less than 3,000 properties available to rent nationwide in Ireland, the lowest figure on record. In Dublin there were just 1,121 properties available to rent on August 1st 2017. That’s over 20% less than were available on the same date in 2016. The average property in the capital now costs €1,741 a month to rent. That’s one and a half times the current average rent nationwide, €1,159. Dublin is under serious pressure and the reality is that this trend is set to continue. There aren’t enough houses being built but the population is continuing to rise. Services, including water, are coming under strain and with Dublin City Council’s chief executive Owen Keegan recently commenting that he believes “….there is a case for revisiting the 26 per cent of zoned land that is currently zoned amenity/open space” it is clear that Ireland needs to design a plan that will set us up not only for the next 10, 20, 30 years, but for the next 50. And it can’t be simply based in and around Dublin. It has to be nationwide and involve the connection of each of the major cities in one network. Ireland is a small country with relatively small spaces between its major cities. It also has fantastic natural beauty which needs to be protected from incessant urban sprawl. With high speed rail now reaching speeds of up to 430km per hour an island like Ireland, which has relatively short distances between it’s major cities, could benefit massively from a modern infrastructure project. One that is not just fitting for 2017 but which will set us up for the next 20, 30, 50 years. Ireland, and Dublin in particular, is increasingly being seen as a location of choice for businesses to operate from. Dublin today is now spoken about in the same breath as Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris and Luxembourg, and its position as a leading financial services centre is set to be further strengthened by Brexit, which will leave Ireland as the only English speaking country in the EU. This, coupled with our common law legal system makes Ireland the destination of choice for a huge number of U.S., Canadian, Australian and New Zealand companies seeking to do business in the EU (and as we all know, large parts of the populations of each of these countries are ethnically Irish).
A modern high speed rail system makes Ireland more attractive for foreign investment. One of the major road blocks for foreign firms re-locating to Ireland as a result of Brexit is the lack of commercial space in Dublin, the lack of residential property and a lack of school places. By connecting cities like Limerick, Cork and Galway we open up the rest of the country. All of a sudden firms can rent cheaper space in cities like Limerick, get their kids into good schools and buy a cheaper house. Firms can still have their head offices in Dublin but there would be an opportunity for them to also establish offices in cheaper locations. The cities also benefit from the creation of local jobs, investment being made in the cities, demand for local businesses and the civic pride that comes from having large international firms locate to the city.