Dublin rail projects to rely on private funding

Decisions to be made on Dart Underground and Metro North

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe must decide on whether to proceed with Dart Underground by September 2015. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe must decide on whether to proceed with Dart Underground by September 2015. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

 

The proposed multibillion rail projects Dart Underground and Metro North will have to rely on private funding if they are to be built, Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has been told.

The underground tunnel (formerly known as the interconnector) connecting the Docklands and Inchicore with underground stations in key locations and the €3 billion Metro North were mothballed when the Government decided on priority capital projects in 2011. Neither was completely abandoned and both are subject to feasibility reviews in light of economic conditions by the end of 2015.

However, ministerial briefing papers prepared for Mr Donohoe state while work on the projects was ongoing “no new large project, however strong the business case, could proceed unless a funding package outside the normal departmental allocations, and including private sector involvement, was available”.

In 2010, the estimated projected cost for Dart Underground was €4 billion, more than half of which was expected to be provided by a public private partnership arrangement. Mr Donohoe must decide on whether to proceed with Dart Underground by September 2015 when the current Railway Order giving authority and planning approval expires. A High Court ruling reduced the period for which compulsory purchase order notices could be issued from seven years to 18 months.

“That means that a decision on whether or not to proceed with Dart Underground under the current Railway Order must be made by September 2015,” it states.

Dart Underground also involved extensive upgrades and electrification of railway commuter routes into Co Louth and Co Kildare.

Critical to Mr Donohoe’s decision will be an instruction by predecessor Leo Varadkar, to the National Transport Authority, asking it to update the business case and look at the population, costs, transport demand, and all sources of public and private funding.

Outcome

The outcome of that exercise will inform the new Minister in his decision on a piece of public transport infrastructure that successive ministers have considered critical for the capital.

Metro North, which proposed a metro route to Dublin Airport, was also cancelled in 2011 but with a review in 2015.

According to Transport officials there will still be a need for a rail-based solution in the long term to meet the demand along the heavily trafficked and populated Swords and Airport corridor.

With the rail projects stalled the NTA proposed an interim solution using three Bus Rapid Transit routes: Blanchardstown to UCD; Clongriffin to Tallaght; and Swords /Airport to the city centre. The latter is expected to cost €160 million to develop.