Journeys on Metro North line would cost €22 - study

Every trip on the proposed Metro North line between Swords and Dublin city centre would cost taxpayers at least €22 and possibly…

Every trip on the proposed Metro North line between Swords and Dublin city centre would cost taxpayers at least €22 and possibly a lot more, according to an independent study commissioned by Fine Gael Senator Paschal Donohoe.

The study, which was carried out by the Houses of the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, notes that this would be more than five times the €4 cost to taxpayers of every trip on the city's two Luas lines, based on a capital outlay of €700 million.

Taking the estimated cost of €4.58 billion (in 2004 prices) for Metro North, as revealed by The Irish Times last August, the study notes this would amount to more than one-third of the funding for all public transport projects in the current National Development Plan.

"The total capital costs for Luas, including land acquisition and VAT, were estimated at roughly €700 million, or an amortised rate of €104.5 million per annum", it continues. With 26 million passengers carried in 2006, this equates to a capital cost of roughly €4 per trip," the study notes.


"Using the same criteria as employed for the Luas, and assuming a total capital cost of €5 billion, in line with the Irish Times report, the amortised capitalisation cost for Metro North would be about €22 per ride over the 30-year project life-span."

It states that former minister for transport Martin Cullen had forecast last year that Metro North would carry 34 million passengers per annum, offering a connection from Dublin airport to St Stephen's Green in less than 20 minutes, with trains running every four minutes.

"Assuming operating times similar to Luas, we can infer 59,419 trains per direction per annum. This would imply average train capacity of 286 passengers", the study states.

"While specifications for carriage length and capacities are not available, this seems like a very heavy passenger volume."

The assumption that 44 per cent of car users would transfer to metro also "seems particularly implausible".

The study includes a table summarising British evidence showing lower levels of "modal shifts" following the opening of light rail systems there, including Sheffield (22.3 per cent), Manchester (19 per cent) and Midlands Metro (14 per cent).

Noting similar ranges in the shift from car to new metro systems in Athens (16 per cent) and Madrid (26 per cent), it notes: "In the absence of a thorough traffic impact study, a Metro North estimate of almost double the nearest UK example appears exaggerated."

The Oireachtas research unit's study complains that neither the original (2002) outline business case for Metro North nor the revised business case prepared a year later, nor the cost-benefit analysis underpinning them, had been made publicly available.

"In the course of this research report, the Library and Research Service contacted the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) and made a request for these documents, and/or any documents relating to cost estimates for the line but were denied on the basis of commercial confidentiality".

A spokesman for the RPA said yesterday that the Department of Finance now had a cost-benefit analysis of Metro North, produced this year. "No decision will be made . . . without it [ Government] being satisfied that the cost-benefit analysis stacks up," he added. Asked about the study's estimate of a cost to taxpayers of €22 per passenger trip on the proposed 17km line, the spokesman said it "isn't correct". When pressed to say what the actual figure might be, he said he couldn't say because this information was confidential.