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Traffic in Dublin (file photo)

Dublin's congestion is reaching 'critical' levels, oral hearings into Metrolink project told

The MetroLink would run north to south, featuring 16 new stations from Swords to Charlemont.


THE FIRST DAY of an oral hearing into the MetroLink project has heard that Ireland is “outgrowing its current transportation infrastructure”, with congestion reaching “critical levels” which will only worsen as the population grows. 

In his opening remarks this morning, MetroLink project director Aidan Foley said the plan will bring “enormous benefits” to residents and visitors to Dublin, and will help provide the city with “a modern transport system befitting a European capital city”.

“Ireland is outgrowing its current transportation infrastructure. A single Dublin commuter will, on average, spend over 213 hours a year stuck in traffic – 28 extra minutes each rush hour,” he said.

“Economists estimate that, without intervention, congestion and lost time will cost the Irish economy over €2 billion per annum in 2033. This problem is forecast to worsen as Ireland’s population continues to grow.”

The proposed MetroLink will have 16 new stations running from Swords to Charlemont and carry 53 million passengers annually. Construction is set to begin next year, with an opening year of 2035.

The 18.8km route will have an end-to-end journey time of 25 minutes and serve residential areas including Ballymun and Glasnevin, as well as the City Centre and Dublin Airport, and will link to Irish Rail, Luas and bus services.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) lodged a Draft Railway Order seeking permission for the project last year and received 318 submissions in response, with An Bord Pleanála deciding to hold oral hearings to facilitate third parties expressing their concerns. 

The oral hearings, at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin, are scheduled to run on 23 days between now and 28 March.

Foley said today that the project is estimated to take nine years following approval, “there will be disruption as construction is ongoing”.

“We recognise that lives will be affected during this period,” he said. 

However, he referenced the delivery of other projects such as the Dublin Port Tunnel and the construction of Luas lines.

“None were easy, and communities and the city centre have benefited enormously from their delivery.”

Residents’ concerns

Foley also addressed the concerns of residents who will have a tunnel being constructed beneath their houses.

He said that TII is satisfied that the tunnel will be constructed at an appropriate depth and using appropriate methodologies. “Damage to properties  – if any – will be cosmetic,” he said.

screenshot.1708339004.6028 Artist's impression of the Dublin MetroLink entrance at St Stephen's Green.

TII has put in place the Property Owners’ Protection Scheme (POPS), a voluntary scheme available to residents whose properties lie within 30 metres of the edge of the MetroLink Tunnel Alignment, or 50 metres of station structures.

The scheme is also available to landlords of residential properties, but it is not open to non-residential property owners.

Those who register for the POPS will be able to choose from a panel of three independent building surveyors to survey your property. This firm will carry out an initial condition survey and a final condition survey of their property and issue reports to the resident and to TII. 

If any damage to the property by MetroLink is identified in these reports, TII will repair this up to a value of €45,000.

The scheme will remain in place for twelve months after the opening of MetroLink.

Property acquisition

The hearing also heard from Michael Horan, the head of land and property services for TII, who outlined the Land Acquisition Strategy at the hearing.

Horan said that MetroLink “will require the acquisition of a substantial number of residential and commercial properties” along with land and property interests in both public and private ownership, “in some cases permanently and in some cases temporarily during the construction phase”.

Following previous consultation events in 2018 and 2019, MetroLink “committed to engage with property owners at the earliest opportunity” and confirmed that all acquisitions will be managed “in a fair and equitable manner”, he said.

A Railway Order (RO) authorises TII to acquire any land or rights to land in the same way as a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO).

Horan said TII understands and acknowledges the importance for property owners “to be able to plan their affairs with as much notice and certainty as possible”. 

Foran said that TII will use “reasonable efforts” to contact every party whose ownership or rights in property are required, whether in whole or in part, to provide details of the Scheme and the proposed RO.

“All parties will be invited to discuss their concerns and enter into discussions with TII at the appropriate time.”

While the “precise” cost of the project is not yet known, the “central” estimate is €9.5 billion, but there is an upper estimate costing with “high inflation and contingencies” that rises to €12.25 billion.

ms05_airport_entrance1920x1080Artist’s impression of the Dublin MetroLink entrance at Dublin Airport.

St Stephen’s Green 

Submissions were also made today by Fingal County Council and Dublin City Council. 

Roisín Burke, a senior planner at Fingal County Council, told the hearing that the council is confident that Fingal will be “transformed” by the arrival of MetroLink.

“The Plans, policies and frameworks demonstrate this and we will continue to work to prepare for its delivery,” she said, adding that the council fully supports the development of the project and believes it will support Fingal in becoming climate resilient.

Deirdre Scully, a senior planning officer representing Dublin City Council, told the hearing that DCC “fully supports the development of MetroLink and the benefits that it will bring to Dublin city and those who visit the city”.

She said the scale and depth of services will have significant benefits across the city, and that having the service to Dublin Airport is “of significant economic value to Dublin and Ireland”, the scale of which “cannot be overstated”.

The hearing was briefly addressed by John Downey, a chartered town planner speaking on behalf of the Office of Public Works (OPW).

Downey expressed the OPW’s “overall support” for MetroLink, but raised concern about the impact the development of MetroLink would have on St Stephen’s Green.

The OPW is charged with operating and maintaining St Stephen’s Green as one of the country’s heritage sites.

In its original submission to An Bord Pleanála, the OPW expressed concern that the line “would have a direct, severe, negative, profound and permanent impact” on St Stephen’s Green heritage value and said the risk of damage “is unacceptable”. 

During the hearing, Downey reiterated that the potential impact of the project on Stephen’s Green “is significant”, adding: “St Stephen’s Green is a national monument.”

He said the OPW is of the view that the requirements outlined in the National Monuments Act 1930 “would have to be complied with irrespective of confirmation of a Railway Order” and an “application of consent will have to be made by TII” prior to any works at Stephens Green.

However, he acknowledged the “positive, constructive engagement between officials from TII and OPW” on the MetroLink project over the past number of years.

As a result of that engagement, he said the OPW is of the view that “significant progress” has been made on many of the matters raised in its submissions.

He said it is anticipated that where agreement has been reached, these will be presented to the oral hearing in the form of an agreed schedule of commitments and mitigation measures which the board will be requested to attach as a condition to the railway order.

It is hoped that matters outstanding will be resolved by agreement before the end of the oral hearing, he added.

The OPW will make further submissions to the hearing on Monday, 26 February and Thursday, 14 March.

Other parties set to speak at the hearings include various politicians, residents associations, Lidl Ireland, the Mater Misericordiae and the Children’s University Hospitals, the Abbey Theatre, Trinity College and Irish Life Assurance.

Tomorrow, the hearing will hear submissions from Dublin Airport, as well as a number of TDs, senators and other elected representatives.

With reporting from Lauren Boland.

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