€225m spent on shelved Dublin transport projects
Only €10m in residual value if Metro North and Dart Underground do not go ahead
Public spending has been targeted at the cross-city Luas connection, a project which is estimated to cost about €375 million. This will link the green and red lines, along with proving a northbound service to O’Connell Street, Grangegorman and Cabra. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
More than €225 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent on transport projects for the Dublin area which have been shelved as a result of the economic downturn. However, only €10 million of this spending – which relates to property acquisition – would have any residual value if the projects do not eventually get the green light.
Plans for the metro and Dart Underground have been deferred indefinitely on the basis that they require significant up-front exchequer spending which the Government cannot afford.
The estimates were compiled by the Railway Procurement Agency – the State body responsible for light rail and metro infrastructure – and are contained in Government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Most of the €227 million spent on the transport projects has been respect of Metro North, a proposed underground rail link between St Stephen’s Green and Swords. A total of €165 million has been spent on enabling works, design costs, legal and commercial fees and railway orders. It is estimated that as much as €26 million of this total has “no value”, even if the project gets the green light.
The spending on property at the height of the boom has contributed to losses. For example, it is estimated that 13 properties it bought have fallen by about €15 million in value.
The Metro West proposal accumulated costs of almost €19 million before it was shelved, mostly on railway order preparation orders and feasibility studies. It is estimated that almost €3 million of this will also have no value, even if the project eventually gets the go-ahead.
The Dart Underground proposal – which would link Heuston and Connolly stations and integrate all suburban rail services – has cost almost €44 million. This spending mostly relates to design, staff costs and consultants. Irish Rail has estimated that these costs will retain their full value if the project progresses as planned.
The Dart Underground project offered the prospect of integrating Dart and suburban rail services into a real network, through use of a 7.6km tunnel between Inchicore and Spencer Dock, with intermediate stations connecting with other services. The overall cost of the project has been estimated at more than €1 billion, which is considered unrealistic in the current environment.
Internal Government documents describe the Metro and Dart Underground as “very large, risky projects that are unlikely to attract private funding on the scale required”. Instead, public spending has been targeted at the cross-city Luas connection, a project which is estimated to cost about €375 million.
This will link the green and red lines, along with proving a northbound service to O’Connell Street, Grangegorman and Cabra.
Dublin City councillors were recently briefed on an alternative Dublin metro proposal which would incorporate and extend Metro North and Dart underground. Transport planner Cormac Rabbitt of NUI Galway said the metro was first proposed to the government in 2000 and could now be built in five simultaneous contracts in just two years. He said it would cost “about half the cost of Metro North”.
He told members of the council’s transport committee that the proposal would result in a net annual revenue of €130 million, which he said would pay off construction costs over 20 years. Rising property values would lead to increased stamp duties for the exchequer and revenues for local authorities, Mr Rabbitt added.