Construction work costing €12.5 million has gone ahead on the controversial Charlemont Metrolink station near Ranelagh, Dublin, even though transport authorities have yet to seek planning permission for the rail line.
The business case for the line, from Swords to Dublin Airport and the city, is expected to be submitted to the Cabinet shortly and followed by an application for a railway order to An Bord Pleanála.
However, work on the metro’s terminus at Charlemont has already started, which local residents say is pre-empting the statutory planning process and “locking in” the route for the line.
The metro route published in 2016 was to run from Swords to Sandyford with a stop at Charlemont, currently served by the Luas Green line.
US investment firm Hines sought planning permission in 2017 to redevelop the former Irish Nationwide Building Society headquarters on Grand Parade near the Luas stop. A condition of permission granted in April 2019 saw Hines required to enter into an agreement with the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to accommodate a potential metro or light rail "on, at, or near the site".
The NTA had two months earlier decided to shelve the southern leg of the route, but said it would terminate the line at Charlemont and investigate future options for the southside. It said last November that any southside rail connection would not be built until after 2042, and would likely be a Luas rather than a metro line. Planning permission would be sought this year for the Metrolink from Swords to Charlemont, it said.
Some 40 residents associations from across south Dublin have repeatedly called for the line to terminate in the city centre rather than at Charlemont, with motions passed at South Dublin County and Dublin City Council recently calling on transport authorities to identify a city centre terminus for the line.
However, work has been ongoing since last year on the underground station at Charlemont ahead of the planning application.
A spokesman for TII said Hines had undertaken enabling work to allow a station to be developed at this this location in the future.
“Under the agreement the State will fund the cost of the enabling works [approximately €12.5 million] and will reimburse Hines for the works when completed.”
Ciarán Black, of the Charlemont/Dartmouth Community Group, said that by commissioning construction of the station’s “exoskeleton” the transport authorities had “acted beyond their powers” and were “predeterming” the outcome of the planning process.
He said construction took place “without ever notifying the public” and no site notice or advertisement related to metro works was ever displayed and no drawings were submitted as part of any application.
Mr Black said sticking with the Charlemont terminus would prevent the future development of a metro to serve potential housing at Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines, as well as Rathgar, Rathfarnham and the southwest city suburbs.
“Whether intentional or not, the NTA is predetermining and locking-in their chosen route to all future decisions about metro extensions on the south side of Dublin.”
A spokesman for the NTA said the Charlemont terminus “future-proofs” an extension of the metro along the Green line or southwest of the city. A spokesman for Hines said it has acted in line with its planning permission and put in place the requisite enabling works required for the site.