LAST week’s welcome news that Metro North is to finally proceed after being shelved four years ago has been tempered by estimations that it will be 12 years before the first tram arrives.
Building of the new Northside transport system is not expected to begin until 2021, with a completion date for the 17km light rail line predicted for 2026/27.
The route will serve key local areas including Drumcondra, the Mater Hospital, DCU and Ballymun in addition to Dublin Airport and Swords with a journey time of 19 minutes from O’Connell St to the Airport.
Almost 8.5km of the €2.4 billion route will run in tunnels from St Stephen’s Green to Griffith Avenue and under the airport.
Metro North is a key element of the Government’s €27 billion Capital Investment Plan and while its announcement was broadly welcomed by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), its Director General, Tom Parlon, expressed some concerns.
“There is a realisation in the construction industry that many of the projects listed have moved from previous plans to this one, while other projects are a long way from ever seeing a shovel in the ground,” he said.
“The undertakings announced will need to be accompanied by a detailed breakdown of the planned investment programme per region, and concrete timeframes to provide the certainty that the construction industry now requires.”
Dublin North West TD, Dessie Ellis (SF), said that while plans for Metro North were welcome there were questions that needed to be answered.
“The Government has given no indication as to how they are proposing to develop these plans leaving the impression that the announcing of earmarked funds is more about electioneering,” he added.
“Plans for a metro in Dublin have been consistently pushed back by government after government over the past 20 years with €150 million spent on this project to date.
“It is extremely disappointing to hear that building will not commence until 2021 – a full term after the lifetime of this government – with 2027 the projected completion date. Sinn Féin has major concerns regarding further delays.”
Metro North was one of six transport options under consideration to link Dublin Airport to the city.
Deputy Ellis has suggested that one of these proposals, for a Swiftway or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, could still be implemented as an interim solution until Metro North is ready.
BRT is a relatively new cost-effective concept based on providing high capacity bus transport through a more efficient system than conventional Quality Bus Corridors.
Another Dublin North West TD, Róisin Shortall (IND), also expressed scepticism over Metro North.
“The announcement this week that a revised Metro North is now back in planning is welcome but the fundamental question remains – will it ever be built?” she asked.
Deputy Shortall believes that new proposals of running trams on the road rather than underground through Ballymun and the junction at Collins Avenue and Glasnevin Avenue won’t work.
There are already huge traffic tail-backs at junctions along Ballymun Road,” she said.
“Stopping traffic to allow a tram to run through every two minutes is going to make the situation impossible, and it will mean even more rat-running through local estates.
“It simply won’t work without a longer tunnel that takes trams past these busy junctions.”
Despite the lengthy wait for Metro North, confirmation that the rail project is back on track was welcomed by Dublin Airport officials and city business representatives.
Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) Chief Executive, Kevin Toland, said a rail link to the city centre was an essential element of Dublin Airport’s long-term growth plans.
“We have been highly supportive of the plans for a rail link from Dublin Airport to the city for many years,” he added.
“We welcome the fact that the new Metro service will be underground at the airport as this will allow an efficient transfer of passengers from the Metro to the terminals and vice versa.
“Dublin Airport has reserved land for a Metro station close to the passenger terminals and we look forward to working closely with the National Transport Authority and other agencies to bring the new Metro North service to the airport.”
Dublin Chamber CEO, Gina Quin, described Metro North as a win-win for both commuters, who travel between north county Dublin and the city centre each day, and international travellers.
“Currently, one third of all people commuting into the city by private car are coming from points to the north and north-east of Dublin,” she continued.
“Other options which had been under consideration would have left commuters with much longer commute times, which would have lessened the chances of them opting for public transport as opposed to the private car.”
DublinTown, the business improvement organisation for Dublin City Centre, said the new light rail system would see Dublin maintain its position as a leading European Capital into the future.
“We are particularly pleased to see the project will guarantee the capacity required to connect the Airport and North Dublin to the City Centre indefinitely,” a spokesperson said.