Metro decision due in September


A long-awaited decision on the future of Metro North is to be made by September, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said today.

The Government will decide which of the ‘big ticket’ transport projects – Metro North, Dart Underground or Luas DXD from St Stephen’s Green to Grangegorman – will go ahead in context of a new national development plan.

Speaking as he opened the new Luas extension to Saggart, Mr Varadkar declined to indicate any personal favourite among the three projects.

But he said Luas had been “the success story of public transport over the past seven years” and he praised the tram system for not needing an operating subsidy.

Mr Varadkar said he was “not being evasive”. However, he said he would have to await the department of transport’s capital allocation in the context of next year’s budget and the national development plan before any choices could be made.

Travel on the Luas Red Line is free all day today to celebrate the opening of the 4.2km extension which leaves the existing Tallaght line at Belgard. Five new stops, located at Fettercairn, Cheeverstown, Citywest Campus, Fortunestown and Saggart.

The extension is expected to add two million passenger journeys to the Red Line, bringing journeys on both Luas lines to a record high of almost 30 million a year.

The Railway Procurement Agency said the running time from Saggart to the city centre would be about 55 minutes, with a frequency of one tram every 10 minutes at peak times, while the frequency from the existing stops on the Tallaght branch is to be one every six minutes.

The €150 million line was jointly funded by the State through the Railway Procurement Agency and a group of private landowners. The group, which included Davy Hickey Properties, Harcourt Development Limited and HSS (Mansfield Group), contributed 55 per cent of the capital cost.

The number of passenger journeys on Luas rose each year from the opening in 2004 to 2008, when they reached 27.4 million. However, they dropped to 25.4 million in 2009 and it was feared they would fall further amid declining employment numbers.

However, the agency has confirmed figures for 2010 had risen to almost 27.5 million, setting a new record for the system.

It is now hoped the Tallaght extension, with its anticipated two million passengers, may bring journey numbers close to 30 million in 2011.