The Government has launched its national transport plan which it says will cost €34.4 billion over the next 10 years.

The plan will be known as 'Transport 21', and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern says €9.4 million will be invested in transport every day for the next decade.

'Transport 21' is targeting an integrated transport system for Dublin which will include seven new LUAS projects, two Metro lines, DART extensions and an underground station at St Stephen’s Green integrating all services.

The plan also includes new commuter rail services for Cork city and Galway city, and a new road route connecting Donegal, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford. This road will be known as the Atlantic Corridor.

At today’s launch of 'Transport 21' at Dublin Castle, the Taoiseach was joined by the Tánaiste, Mary Harney, the Minister for Transport, Martin Cullen, and the Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen.

Mr Cullen said connecting communities and promoting prosperity are at the core of 'Transport 21'. Mr Cowen outlined the economic benefits of the plan and detailed a series of value for money measures to ensure it is delivered on time and on budget.

The Taoiseach said 'Transport 21' heralds a new era for transport in Ireland. 'We have all worked to generate the resources, now we must invest to continue to improve the lives of everybody. On transport, we have to move from far behind to the lead. Transport 21 is designed to achieve this objective and deliver benefits in every part of the country,' said Mr Ahern.

Ms Harney said a comprehensive and efficient transport network is essential if Ireland is to continue to improve living standards while remaining competitive in the global market place.

Opposition unconvinced

Speaking earlier on RTÉ Radio 1’s News At One, Fine Gael's Richard Bruton said his party wants to see firm evaluations and costings of the new transport plan.

He said the Government had a credibility problem on delivering its transport policy.

Labour party leader Pat Rabbitte has welcomed the transport plan but has questioned the Government's ability to deliver on it.    

Mr Rabbitte, who was launching a campaign against what Labour claims is the coalition's waste of taxpayers' money, said that the question was not whether they could draw up a plan, but whether projects could be completed within budget and on time.

The Labour leader instanced a number of areas where he said elaborate plans had been launched but had come to nothing, such as spatial planning and the health services.

The Labour Party campaign claims that €750m, which it says has been squandered by the Government, would have paid for 2,000 extra gardaí on the streets or put an extra teacher in every primary school for five years.  

Labour plans to use mobile billboards and distribute handbills to get home their message.

Green Party transport spokesperson Eamon Ryan TD said any of the commitments which are not actually signed up to before the next election should be treated with a healthy scepticism as pre-election promises.

Mr Ryan said that the fact that we do not have a National Transport Authority to oversee the implementation of this plan shows that the Government is still planning on the hoof.

'Fantastic' news for Meath

One of the groups campaigning for the re-opening of rail links in Co Meath has described as 'fantastic', the Government's proposed rail developments for the area.

Spokesperson Proinsias Mac Fhearghusa said that the rail plans for Meath will vastly improve the quality of life for county's commuters.

He said that Meath commuters could be in Dublin within 65 minutes from Navan if the existing freight line from Navan to Dublin (via Drogheda) was opened to commuter trains.

Mr Mac Fhearghusa added that an immediate solution is on offer to Meath's commuters and it should be implemented now to give immediate relief.

Criticism from NBRU

The General Secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers' Union, Liam Tobin, has criticised the lack of adequate buses for Dublin in Martin Cullen’s new transport plan as 'incredibly short sighted, especially given the fact that all the experts agree that buses provide the quickest and cheapest solution to the current traffic congestion in the capital.'

Mr Tobin added: 'Every week the problems of under capacity are increasing. Buses are becoming jammed with passengers and commuters are growing frustrated and disillusioned because they find bus after bus passing them by full at bus stops as they struggle to get to work.'