Italian ambassador concerned by Dublin MetroLink delay

Dublin should follow example of Rome, Paolo Serpi says

Computer-generated image of metro for Dublin

Computer-generated image of metro for Dublin

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The outgoing Italian ambassador to Ireland, Paolo Serpi, has expressed concern about delays to Dublin’s MetroLink rail line and has offered the assistance of the Italians to bring the project to fruition.

Mr Serpi, whose four-year term in office is drawing to a close, on Wednesday hosted a conference of Italian and European industrialists, bankers and transport specialists, which was also attended by representatives of the National Transport Authority (NTA), Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and several Government departments, to discuss the underground line.

The project “has been postponed now for more than 20 years” he said, despite it being essential to transport, housing and population development to finally set “aside the sad inheritance of the Great Famine”.

Five metro lines had been built in Rome, he said, despite the difficulties of construction in the historic city. “Try to imagine what it means to have done four, no, five lines in Rome. In a city like Rome, to dig 100m down in Rome, what does that mean? But we have done it!”

He asked NTA chief executive Anne Graham: “I want to know if we can do something, we, as Italians, for you?”

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Ms Graham said MetroLink had not been postponed and there appeared to be “a bit confusion” about the timeline.

“The impression MetroLink is postponed is something I’m surprised to hear because that is certainly not the case.” The planning process for the line would begin this year and it was due to be operational in “the early 2030s” she said.

Legal environment

Mr Serpi asked TII chief executive Peter Walsh if the legal environment in Ireland surrounding infrastructure projects was more complicated than in Italy or other European countries.

“I don’t know how easy it is to build infrastructure in other European countries but it’s not easy in Ireland, and it’s not getting any easier,” Mr Walsh said.

“I don’t care if the Irish underground in Dublin is made by the Italians,” Mr Serpi said, “I am just metaphorically breaking your… I don’t want to use bad words, but if you make a common effort you can do it!”

The project needed genuine commitment if it was to be delivered in a efficient and cost-effective manner, Mr Walsh said.

“If the State and all the agencies and organs of the State don’t commit to supporting and working towards the delivery of this project it will add costs and there is a distinct danger costs could be inflated simply by not co-ordinating to support it.”

He said he was keen to learn from Italian cities “that put up with the expenditure and the pain of building infrastructure of this nature and are reaping the rewards of it”.