Minister says Metro North decision in September as he opens Luas extension

Mon, Jul 4, 2011, 01:00

A LONG-AWAITED decision on the future of Metro North will be made by September, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said at the weekend.

The Government is to decide which of the “big ticket” transport projects – Metro North or Luas DXD from St Stephen’s Green to Grangegorman – will go ahead in the context of a new national development plan, he said.

Speaking as he opened a Luas extension to west Tallaght, Mr Varadkar declined to indicate any personal favourite among the two projects.

However, he said that Luas had been “the success story of public transport over the past seven years”, and he praised the tram system for not needing an operating subsidy.

Mr Varadkar said he was “not being evasive” but would have to await the Department of Transport’s capital allocation in the context of next year’s budget and the national development plan before any choices could be made.

Asked about remarks he made this year that one project would definitely go ahead, Mr Varadkar repeated his comments about awaiting the department’s financial allocation.

Travel on the Luas Red line was free on Saturday to celebrate the opening of the 4.2km extension which leaves the existing Tallaght line at Belgard.

There are five new stops at Fettercairn, Cheeverstown, Citywest Campus, Fortunestown and Saggart.

The new line goes into full passenger service immediately.

It is estimated that two million extra Red line passenger journeys will be made as a result of the extension.

The €150 million line was jointly funded by the State through the Railway Procurement Agency and a group of private landowners.

The group included Davy Hickey Properties, Harcourt Development Limited and HSS (Mansfield Group).

The group contributed 55 per cent of the capital cost. The expected travel time from the terminus at Saggart/Garter Lane to the city centre is about 50 minutes. The projected travel time from the existing Belgard stop to Saggart is 10 minutes.

The new line offers a 10-minute frequency at peak, and the Tallaght terminus will have a six-minute frequency at peak.

Railway Procurement Agency chief executive Frank Allen described the line opening as “an occasion of major celebration for the whole community”.

“Luas is the success story of public transport in the last seven years,” said Mr Varadkar.