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Dublin: 6 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019
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NTA defends new MetroLink stop despite €12 million spend on nearby underground station site

Phibsborough locals have called on the NTA to reverse its decision.

Station. Proposed Mater Metro Station Source: Transport Infrastructure Ireland

THE NATIONAL TRANSPORT Authority has defended its decision to build a new MetroLink station at the Mater Hospital in Dublin despite a €12 million spend on a ‘station box’ structure 500 metres away for the shelved Metro North.

Locals in Dublin 7 are calling for the ‘station box’ site, built under the Mater for Metro North in 2012, to be incorporated into the revised MetroLink plan to prevent the dismantling of a local green space. A ‘station box’ is an underground station typically used for Metro lines. At the time of its construction, the new Mater Adult Hospital was under development. 

Under revised MetroLink plans published last year, the Mater area will now be served with a MetroLink station located at the corner of Eccles Street and Berkeley Road adjacent to St. Joseph’s Church instead of the proposed ‘Metro North Mater’ stop, an underground concrete structure located beneath the forecourt of the Mater Adult Hospital.

Phibsborough resident Pauline Cadell is calling on the NTA to reconsider its design and use the ‘station box’ site under the Mater instead. 

“We have so few green spaces in the North Inner City,” Cadell, who has started an online petition to prevent the Berkeley Road station plan, told TheJournal.ie. “We know that we need Metro, we know that. But that is a much-loved park.”

‘Stop-start approach’

Metro North, a 16.5km combined underground and surface light rail service, was due to link Dublin City centre with Swords via Dublin Airport but the plan was put on the back-burner in 2011 by-then Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar. 

In the meantime, the Metro North Mater ‘station box’ site was completed by BAM Contractors Ltd. between January and July 2012. Built using concrete diaphragm walls, the overall excavation and construction costs of the structure totaled €12.9 million, the NTA confirmed to TheJournal.ie.

“Due to the location of the Mater Stop Box, it would not be possible to construct the stop box at a future date without causing significant disturbance to the operation of the Mater Adult Hospital,” a 2012 report noted. 

In May 2018, the NTA announced plans to revive the metro project in the form of MetroLink. 

Last month, a revised route was unveiled for the project, which will now terminate at Charlemont Luas stop on the Southside. The line is expected to open in 2027, with construction likely to take up to seven years.

Station Box. Location of Metro North 'station box' Source: GoogleMaps

According to a spokesperson for the NTA, the alignment of MetroLink has changed from Metro North which has resulted in “the angle of approach to the Mater shifting away from the previously planned station box”. 

Metro North provided an interchange with Irish Rail’s Sligo-Maynooth rail services near Drumcondra. Under the MetroLink plan the interchange will now be at Cross Guns Bridge in Glasnevin.

“Given that the Phoenix Park tunnel is now in operation, MetroLink can avail of greater interchange opportunities at this station with the Newbridge-Hazelhatch line as well as the Sligo-Maynooth line,” the NTA spokesperson said. 

Local Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe has said that this interchange between rail lines is a positive. 

“I accept that the Berkeley Road stop will significantly impact, and close off, traffic…but it allows us to interchange between two rail lines. Surely that’s a good thing.”

Cuffe has said, however, that “the stop-start approach that we’ve seen on these major infrastructure projects is problematic”. 

Four Masters Park, the plot at risk under MetroLink, features a large memorial cross erected in 1876 to commemorate the Franciscan friars of Donegal town who between 1632 and 1636 compiled a history of the ancient kingdom of Ireland which later became known as the Annals of the Four Masters. 

Concerns expressed during initial public consultation for MetroLink included the impact on the park and the surrounding area as well as the station no longer being located under the Mater Hospital, as was originally proposed. 

Sean McCabe, a candidate in the upcoming local elections, has said the lack of engagement of local communities by the NTA on the decision is a major issue.

Mater. Four Masters Park in Phibsborough Source: GoogleMaps

“There’s a big difference between informing a community of what is happening and treating communities as partners in the development of public services,” McCabe has said.

“Poor consultation means that communities are in the dark about why they may lose this park when there seems to be a viable solution under the hospital.”

This breeds resentment. Meaningful participation, on the other hand, would seek to arrive at solutions that work for the project and are welcomed by the community.

The NTA spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that a “key strategy” of MetroLink is creating a fully integrated public transport system for Dublin. 

The additional interchange opportunities under the Cross Guns Bridge design has been “deemed sufficiently advantageous to shift the alignment,” they added.  

“This meant moving out of line with the station box originally proposed at the Mater. But we decided that benefits outweighed this cost.”

Public consultation on the revised MetroLink route continues until 21 May. 

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