So, Metro North is on its way back - well, well, well.
That said, I’m not surprised that the plan for the DART underground linking Dublin’s Docklands to Heuston Station has been shelved.
It’s the right rail infrastructure to build for the long term, not only for the Greater Dublin area, but for the whole country, providing as it would a seamless mainline rail connection from Belfast to Cork and all connected rail destinations south and west, and incorporating Dublin Airport.
The right long term decision, but it seems we don’t have the money required and I wouldn’t be holding my breath for a revised more cost-effective version, despite Minister Donohoe’s bone fides on the issue.
So what about the Metro?
Well, assuming the Airport does need some sort of rail link, let’s look at the balance sheet debits and credits for proceeding with the project now.
On the plus side:
- It will mitigate to some degree the €150m already spent on planning and other costs for the project.
- It will provide a more regular and consistent transport mode to and from the city for SOME people in Swords and North Dublin and for the Airport’s passengers
- If Swords is to be served by the rail link, it makes sense to build it co-terminous with the construction of the second runway at Dublin Airport, which it will have to tunnel beneath as well as under the existing runway
- The airport station will be centrally located close to the passenger terminals, unlike various Luas options which would have left them at the entrance roundabout
Now the negative side:
- Whole swathes of central Dublin, including the northern end of O’ Connell Street, will be dug up again just as the disruptive Luas works are due to finish. And remember, a terminating station at St Stephen’s Green would absorb a significant chunk of that beautiful and historic park.
- Most of the growing population of Swords and North Dublin, whom it is supposed to serve, will still have to take a bus or car to the Metro’s linear stations, in the same way as many currently do to the DART and mainline rail service along the coast.
- To reduce costs, there will be fewer carriages and stations than previously envisaged, signalling (sorry) a less than optimum service for all the money it will cost.
Hmmm. Not sure of the balance of benefits there...
The real question is whether Dublin Airport really needs a rail link of any sort to the Airport, rather than a link being something that would be nice-to-have.
Unusually for a major capital city airport, Dublin Airport lies just six miles from the city centre, and given real political and planning support, it could be linked quickly, efficiently and cheaply by a dedicated bus lane the whole way, and beyond to the growing population centres to the north.
This would involve, for instance, high capacity buses travelling non-stop in each direction on dedicated south and north-bound lanes, thus squeezing other road users significantly in pinch points such as Drumcondra. But so be it, if we’re serious about encouraging public transport and cost-efficient provision of infrastructure.
Oh, and by the way, the new Metro link will reportedly cost only €1.8bn. The very best of luck with that...