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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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Metrolink: How did we get here and what's next?

The NTA is due to publish a preferred route in March.

Metrolink. Source: Metrolink.ie

WITH THE SOUTHSIDE section of the Dublin Metrolink project set to abandoned by the National Transport Authority (NTA), plans for the city’s underground rail have been thrown open. 

The mostly underground route, which is due to connect Dublin Airport to the city centre by rail and beyond to for the first time, will still run from Swords to the city centre but it’s now likely to stop north of Ranelagh at Charlemont

That’s because the NTA’s preferred route involved disrupting the Luas Green Line for up to four years, it was reported yesterday. 

The line was due to open in 2027 and was originally expected to run from Swords on Dublin’s northside to Sandyford on the southside with the construction of a new underground track from Swords to Charlemont while an upgraded section of the Luas Green Line would remain overground. 

The latest change – abandoning the southside section – is set to be announced next month by the NTA when a new route option will be published. 

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday evening, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, refused to confirm whether the southside part of the project will be abandoned but said that he “wouldn’t tolerate” continued disruption to the Luas Green Line.  

Following the latest development, politicians have called for alternatives to the much-vaunted project to be examined. So, here’s a recap of how we got here and what’s likely to happen next. 

‘Berlin Wall’

Plans for a Metro in Dublin have been floating around for some time; plans were halted in 2011 due to the economic downturn. In March last year, a new plan was published for the MetroLink, which would see a route run between Swords and Sandyford.

That plan, however, received a significant amount of criticism, primarily from a group of southside residents in Ranelagh in Dublin 6.

Last July, Peter Nash, a member of the Rethink MetroLink Dublin South City group, told an Oireachtas committee that the proposed MetroLink was akin to the opening of a “Checkpoint Charlie” on the Berlin Wall. 

The argument centred around the closure of a through-road from Dunville Avenue to Beechwood Road.

Outlining the group’s concerns to the transport committee, Nash said transformation of the current Luas line to a segregated high-speed over-ground Metrolink southwards from Charlemont has “significant adverse social, environmental and commercial consequences for the adjacent neighbourhoods”. 

Nash said a segregated high-speed over-ground rail, in effect, creates a clear physical partition within communities.

Cowper Luas Stop. Cowper Luas Station on Dublin's southside Source: GoogleMaps

There were also concerns on Dublin’s northside following the project’s relaunch. 

The current plans also saw proposals to establish a tunnel boring machine launch site  which will share its perimeter with Scoil Mobhí in Glasnevin. The school shares its site with Na Fianna GLG, Scoil Chaitríona, and playschool Tír na nOg.

Representatives of the schools and clubs appeared before an Oireachtas committee last April to raise concerns about the planned site. 

However, speaking at an Oireachtas committee last June, the NTA’s deputy CEO Hugh Creegan said that an alternative design was being considered.

Over the subsequent months, the NTA came under pressure from local politicians, including Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy whose constituency is Ranelagh-Rathmines, to change the route. 

One solution to the Dunville Avenue/Beechwood Road issue involved either constructing a rail bridge over the road or a ‘cut and cover’ plan which would see the Metro travel underground which would add €25 to €35 million to the project’s €3 billion budget. 

It’s understood that plans to extend this option were drawn up, after proposals were rejected locally, which would cost an additional €100 million. 

MetroLink Route Map Final for Web Source: RollingNews.ie

However, that plan would cause the Luas Green Line to be disconnected and be disrupted for two to four years, it has been reported. 

A spokesperson for Minister for Transport Shane Ross TD has confirmed that Ross met with the NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland for “crisis talks” this week and warned that bringing the Luas Green Line to a standstill for a significant period would be “unacceptable”. 

“These proposals emerged following last year’s extensive public consultations, to specifically cater for the concerns of Ranelagh residents,” the spokesperson added. “Regrettably, this section of the development was heavily politicised by local representatives.”

‘Ill-considered plan’

In the latest controversy, local representatives have taken the opportunity to hammer home local concerns. 

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan welcomed the proposed scrapping of the southside route, describing it as “a matter that has deeply frustrated those living in the areas most impacted”. 

“The fact that this ill-considered plan could be taken off the table means that there may be a welcome opportunity to draw up a better, more environmentally friendly MetroLink plan for South Dublin and this time, in proper consultation with the public”.

Meanwhile, Noel Rock TD has called for the route to proceed in two parts and to not allow Northsiders be “shafted” by a “southside squabble”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD called on Ross not to abandon the southside section of the Metrolink but to “look at alternatives”. 

From Charlemont station, Ryan has said that the Metro should either continue South West to Terenure, Rathfarnham and Tallaght or South East to UCD and Sandyford.

“Come what may there should be no delay in the northside section of the line,” Ryan has said. “While that is advanced through the planning process we can work out the optimal southside route.”

For now, the NTA is not being drawn on recent reports, though it’s not denying them either. 

A revised route for the Metrolink is due to be published in the coming weeks, an NTA spokesperson confirmed. “Those amended plans will be subject to a further round of public consultation.”

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