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Calls for clarity on MetroLink after reports it will not be completed until 2034

The project was due to be completed by 2027.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been urged to clarify plans for the MetroLink project in Dublin after reports that it may be delayed by seven years.

At the weekend the Mail on Sunday reported that the Metrolink, which is due to be completed by 2027, is now not expected to be finished until 2034.

The €3 billion metro line will run from Swords in north Dublin and terminate at Charlemont near Ranelagh.

Government sources told The Journal that no decision has been made to “push back” plans, but delays are expected due to a number of processes required for the project such as securing the railway order and compulsory purchase orders, as well as a tender process.

Fine Gael TD for Dublin Fingal Alan Farrell said these reported delays are “unacceptable and will be yet another set back for north Dublin”.

“Dublin Fingal has one of the fastest growing populations in the country and is also home to Dublin Airport, the necessity of a modern transport system cannot be understated,” he said.

“The latest reports of delays are, to put it simply, an insult to all residents who have engaged in good faith with the process and who eagerly anticipate MetroLink’s arrival.”

Farrell called on Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan to provide clarity on the future of the MetroLink “as a matter of urgency”.

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the Department of Transport said that government approval and finalisation of documents to lodge the railway application with An Bord Pleanála, which are expected to happen in the next several months, will “determine the progress of MetroLink in the coming years”.

“The construction start date for MetroLink will ultimately be determined by successful receipt of planning permission (Railway Order) from An Bord Pleanála and then securing formal Government approval to proceed to construction under Decision Gate 3 of the Public Spending Code,” the spokesperson said.

“While the exact start date will depend on the granting of planning permission and government decision under the public spending code, there has been no decision to defer the construction start date to 2027.

“It is the Minister’s intention that construction commence within the lifetime of this government, noting the requirement for planning permission and the necessary government approvals.”

Labour TD Duncan Smith, who also represents Dublin Fingal, told The Journal he had suspicions in recent months that there may be delays to the project following responses to parliamentary questions that he received from the Transport Minister.

In the most recent response, Minister Ryan said there remained “an extensive body of work” in relation to finalising the preliminary design, completing the required environmental impact assessment reports and closing out property referencing issues before the railway order application will be ready for submission to An Bord Pleanála.

The Minister said aspects of this work were impacted by Covid-19 restrictions earlier in the year and it will likely be Q1 2022 before the railway order application will be ready, with submission to An Bord Pleanála expected shortly thereafter.

He said the preliminary business case for the project has been submitted to his department for review and once it has also been reviewed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform it will be presented to government.

Minister Ryan said approval of this preliminary business case is required prior to any application for a railway order and he expects to bring the matter to government ahead of the finalisation of the application in the first quarter of next year.

Smith said people in his constituency are angry and frustrated at news of the potential delays.

“We all know this project has been politically divisive, there are people who just haven’t believed in it and I thought we were through all of that,” he said.

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He said the local council had made a number of significant plans, including for high density housing, on the basis that the MetroLink would be in place.

“We’re going to have a repeat of the problem we had in the Celtic Tiger where we built really quickly, but didn’t have the infrastructure. This is the infrastructure that should have gone with the homes already built, nevermind the new ones to come.

Smith said it is “worrying” that the minister has not sought to publicly clarify reports of delays and he plans to raise the issue with the Oireachtas Transport Committee this afternoon.

- With reporting by Christina Finn.

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