The Government is once again considering revising the scope of the long-planned Metro North rail link between Dublin city centre, Dublin Airport and Swords as part of its €115 billion capital plan.
The underground element of the 17km route was cut back in 2015 by then minister for transport Paschal Donohoe on cost grounds.
However, informed sources last night said that under the revised proposals more of the track could end up being subterranean. This comes amid controversy in Dublin over traffic issues arising from the new Luas cross-city line.
The change has been discussed at the highest levels of Government, although well-placed sources said the capital plan, which sets out intended infrastructure spending for the next decade, has not yet been finalised. It is due to be published on Friday.
Ministers have also examined increases in train capacity, such as ordering about 100 extra carriages for the Drogheda and Maynooth commuter lines, both of which are scheduled to be electrified as part of the expansion of the Dart system. Hybrid electric and diesel trains could be brought into service in advance of the electrification of the line.
Hundreds of millions of euro will also be spent on rural roads, to offset the major transport projects being focused on Dublin. About 80 per cent of road investment will be outside Dublin.
In the health sector, a significant investment in developing electronic patient records as part of an initiative known as “ehealth” is under consideration.
The Irish Times reported last week that the Government plans to develop a new acute hospital in Cork. There will also be three new elective-only hospitals developed in Galway, Cork and Dublin.
A new land-management agency is also expected to be announced as part of the national planning framework. Sources said it would co-ordinate and “take on” the development of State-owned land, such as that held by councils and State agencies. It will also have the power to acquire privately-owned lands through compulsory purchase orders (CPOs). It is understood the agency will also have the power to rezone land for specific purposes to encourage “strategic” development in certain areas.
It was pointed out that the use of CPOs would not necessarily be used to encourage the construction of more homes, but because the State may envisage different uses for particular sites than they are currently used for.
Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran said his hometown of Athlone would be designated “capital of the midlands” in the planning framework. He said he had personally intervened to ensure the designation.