Cost of developing Dart Underground, metro line ‘to exceed €10bn’

Taoiseach insists planning application for MetroLink has not been delayed by a decade

Under the  draft Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy 2022-2042 published this week, proposals for a  southside metro have been scrapped while the Dart Underground will not be built for at least 20 years.

Under the draft Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy 2022-2042 published this week, proposals for a southside metro have been scrapped while the Dart Underground will not be built for at least 20 years.

 

The costs of developing Dart Underground and a metro line south of Dublin city were set to exceed €10 billion according to reports commissioned by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

Under the €25 billion draft Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy 2022-2042 published this week, proposals for a future southside metro have been scrapped while the Dart Underground, to connect Heuston station to the Dart line via St Stephen’s Green, will not be built for at least 20 years.

Reports by Jacobs Engineering, commissioned as part of the review of the strategy, put the cost of delivering a metro to the south or south west of the city at €4billion-€5.6 billion, with the Dart underground expected to cost €5billion-€6 billion.

The MetroLink line, which will run from Swords and Dublin Airport to the city, had previously been costed at €3.5 billion, while the NTA has not updated this estimate it is expected costs will increase considerably.

An application for MetroLink is due to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála next year, with the line expected to open at some point after 2031. When the preferred route of MetroLink from Swords to Sandyford was announced in 2018, the line was due to take six years to construct and was due open in 2027. The route was shortened in 2019 to remove the southside leg.

Major project

Deputy NTA chief executive Hugh Creegan on Wednesday told Dublin city councillors the shortened metro is now expected to take up to nine years to deliver, after planning permission has been granted.

“All the advice we are getting from tunnelling experts that we have as part of the MetroLink team is that for this particular project it will take eight to nine years to do the construction the systems and the commissioning. It’s a major, major international-sized project. That is why it will move past 2030 for delivery, it’s just not physically possible to get it all done in time.”

Mr Creegan said he understood people’s frustration at the time it was taking to deliver major rail projects.

“I know people would like things to happen faster but big transport projects don’t get done anywhere in the world fast, unless you’re in a dictatorship which thankfully we’re not.”

Jacobs Engineering were asked to assess the potential of developing a future southside extension of Metrolink either southwest to Rathfarnham/Knocklyon or southeast to Sandyford via UCD.

Their report concludes the southwest line would cost €4 billion-€5.6 billion depending on route alignment and was “unlikely to be a cost-effective approach to enhancing public transport in this area of Dublin”. The southeast line at €4.5billion-€5.1 billion was also seen as offering “poor value of money”.

In relation to Dart Underground, Jacobs estimated the cost at between between €5 billion and €6 billion.

The NTA has decided that instead of a southern metro it will develop Luas lines to UCD and Sandyford, which would take the pressure off the exiting Green Luas line and remove the need for it be upgraded to a metro, and to Rathfarnham/Knocklyon. These routes would be two of eight new Luas lines due to be built after 2042. The Dart Underground line will also be built after 2042 according to the strategy.

Meanwhile Irish Rail has started a second round of public consultation on the extension of dart services to Kildare. Dart+ South West, which will see the electrification of the Kildare line from Heuston Station to Hazelhatch/Celbridge, with a new station proposed at Heuston West. An application for the work is due to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála next year.

Martin on MetroLink

Also on Wednesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin reiterated that MetroLink has not been postponed for a decade and he promised that the railway line for north Dublin, first promised in 2005, will be built.

On Tuesday Mr Martin said in the Dáil it was not true that the major infrastructural project had been delayed for 10 years and challenged about it again on Wednesday he said a planning application will be submitted next year.

The funding allocated in the Nation Development Plan (NDP), with investment money of €165 billion, is the “ultimate guarantor that we will get MetroLink built”, he insisted.

Mr Martin was responding in the Dáil to Social Democrats joint leader Róisín Shortall who accused him of misrepresenting what was in the NTA’s strategy.

The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2027 but a draft NTA strategy document this week stated that the railway line from Swords to the city centre via Dublin Airport will not be finished until the 2030s.

Ms Shortall said they had been told that the Dart+ could not happen until after 2042. MetroLink had been promised for more than 20 years and a rail link has been promised for more than 30 years but nothing would now happen until at least 2031.

“That’s another 10 years,” she said as she asked the Taoiseach what he was saying “to the people on the north side of Dublin in relation to the gridlock that they now encounter in trying to go about their daily business”.

“What will happen to improve that situation over the next 10 years?”

‘Not the truth’

Mr Martin an idea “has been kind of spun out there” that the project has somehow been shelved for 10 years but that is “just not the truth”.

MetroLink is “going to planning in early 2022. It has to go through public spending codes and the various approvals. I don’t think anybody here would expect otherwise.

“The fact that the NDP has a 10-year envelope and has a 10-year framework, I think, is the ultimate guarantor that we will get MetroLink built. That is our determination as a Government.

“So, far from shelving anything, work is proceeding at pace to get the MetroLink going in terms of all of the necessary decisions that need to be taken.”

He said the Government is determined that three key projects – MetroLink, Dart Plus and BusConnects – will be advanced, but they have to go through the planning process.

Nobody could say how long it would take to get through planning and challenges that “inevitably happen with projects as large as this”, but the funding has been provided through the National Development Plan to finance it.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan “is very determined to progress these three key elements”, Mr Martin said.

On Wednesday evening, the Taoiseach told party colleagues that Mr Ryan would be invited to address a future meeting of Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party after TDs raised concerns over the plans for transport in Dublin.

He was speaking to a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary meeting at which Dublin South-West TD John Lahart questioned why it would take so long for MetroLink to be delivered.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown TD Cormac Devlin and Dublin North-West TD Paul McAuliffe were said to have complained of a lack of engagement with Government TDs on the new NTA strategy.