Transport officials defend exclusion of south Dublin metro from NDP

Old plan had included a underground to Sandyford but it was not in the updated NDP

Transport officials have disputed a suggestion that the exclusion of a metro for South Dublin means the new National Development Plan (NDP) is less ambitious than the last one.

It came as officials from the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) appeared before the TDs and Senators to be questioned on plans for road, rail and cycling in the NDP.

The old plan had included a Metro from Swords to Sandyford but it is not in the new NDP published last month.

South Dublin-based Fianna Fáil Senator Gerry Horkan outlined how the Luas Green Line was "full pretty much all day" before the pandemic and asked if a Metro upgrade is still planned.

NTA director of transport planning Hugh Creegan said Metrolink does not include a Green Line upgrade but said that there is ability to incrementally increase capacity on the Luas service "that will carry us through the next decade, two decades". He told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport that at that point "there will be other plans needed for the Green Line".

Mr Horkan put it to the officials that the new NDP was less ambitious than the previous one. Mr Creegan disputed this saying that previously the authority believed it needed to plan for a Metro upgrade but after further work "we then saw a different way of doing it."

Mr Horkan said there are plans for thousands of new homes in Cherrywood and elsewhere along the Green Line and said he is worried it won’t be able to meet demand.

NTA chief executive Anne Graham said the authority was aware of the new housing developments as it made plans "and we believe that the green line is capable of delivering a service for those new developments."

Mr Horkan argued that it’s fair to say there will be no significant increase in capacity on the Green Line for the next couple of decades.

Ms Graham said “we believe there has been a significant increase” with longer and extra trams leading to a more than 30 per cent rise in capacity.

Dublin Fingal TD Duncan Smith asked about the business case for the current plans for Metrolink from Swords to Charlemont Street which has been submitted to the Department of Transport for review.

Ms Graham said it “makes sense from a preliminary business case”.

Mr Creegan said he expected the review to be finished and submitted to Government early next year and that there would be an planning application sent to An Bord Pleanála "as quickly as possible after" in the first half of 2022.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland chief executive Peter Walsh told the committee there is expected to be "limited" funding for roads projects in the planning phase in the first five years of the NDP.

The “indications” are that funding for the years 2021-2025 will be in the order of €1 billion and the Government has indicated funding for new national roads for the 10 years of the NDP will be €5.1 billion.

Sinn Féin TD Darren O'Rourke said there are important projects planned for his Meath East consitituency but there is a long list of projects in the NDP. He suggested to Mr Walsh that many of the projects are not going to be delivered based on the figures he provided to the committee.

Mr Walsh said: “There is insufficient funds in the period20 21 to 2025 to progress a significant number of the projects that are listed. “There will be with the €4 billion in the period beyond 2026 - sufficient funds to progress.”

He said he did not want to “create false expectations” and “We will progress for whatever projects we can in accordance with the priorities as the NDP during that [earlier] period.”

Committee chairman, Fine Gael's Kieran O'Donnell - a Limerick City TD - asked about the plans for the Limerick to Cork road upgrade. It is listed as the "N/M20" in the NDP and there are doubts over whether it will be a full motorway.

Mr Walsh said: "Limerick City and County are the authority bringing it forward and they've been doing so very diligently".

He said they are “taking into account what they’ve been anticipating in terms of requirements that will arise from climate testing and carbon measurement and so on”.

He said a “preferred transport solution” for the project is expected by the end of the year and that will then go out to public consultation.

He said he was being careful with his words.

Mr O’Donnell said: “Well I don’t need to be careful so I’m going to spell it out and for me I think there should be a motorway.”