Link to Dublin Airport and Swords must concentrate on more economical options

Hugely expensive and enormously disruptive metro north project should no longer be on agenda

 

The long-running debate about how to link Dublin Airport and Swords to the city centre with high-quaity public transport seemed to have been settled several years ago with the Metro North project. But the huge cost of putting what amounted to a Luas light rail line underground for much of its length turned out to be prohibitive, particularly after the Government ran out of money, so it was shelved in favour of examining more economical options. These include rail spurs to the airport from the Maynooth or Belfast lines, bus rapid transt (BRT) or a Luas line tunnelled under Glasnevin Cemetery.

This review, initiated by Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe, is now nearing completion and a decision is expected shortly. Given that the service is likely to attract between 2,400 and 3,600 passengers per hour in each direction, it is obviously important that the right choice is made. Extending the Luas Cross City line from Broombridge in Cabra to the airport and Swords seems to be the emerging “preferred option”, but a BRT line using the Dublin Port Tunnel would be much more direct and significantly cheaper -- provided, of course, that a high level of segregation from other traffic can be maintained.

One option that has not been considered adequately, or at all, would involve diverting the Dublin-Belfast mainline through the airport, serving Swords along the way. This would not only improve the faltering mainline service between Ireland’s two largest cities, not least by eliminating timetable conflicts with commuter trains on the northern line. But such lateral thinking is rare in Government circles, so the more likely outcome of the National Transport Authority’s review will be a snaking Luas line from Broombridge to Dublin Airport, via Glasnevin, or a partially-segregated BRT line running into town on existing roads.

Whatever the outcome of this review, the Minister should make clear that the wildly expensive and enormously disruptive Metro North is no longer on the agenda. Merely shelving the project, leaving open the prospect of dusting it down at some stage in the future, is not sufficient. There are other, more realistic ways of serving Dublin Airport and Swords.

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