The Irish Times view on MetroLink: back to the drawing board

Transport planners should look into the possibility of providing surface-running Luas lines that would feed into MetroLink at Charlemont from UCD Belfield as well as the poorly-served southwestern sector of the city

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, to paraphrase Robert Burns. And so it is with the Government's on-again, off-again MetroLink from Sandyford to Dublin Airport and Swords.

The revelation that this €3 billion project would involve disrupting the successful Luas Green Line for up to four years, to allow for its upgrade to carry a higher-frequency metro service, provoked such shock in political circles that its southern leg is now certain to be dropped. As a result, the National Transport Authority must go back to the drawing board.

The Green Line was always planned to be upgraded to metro at some stage, even though this could never have been done in a painless way. As always, the devil in the detail only emerged over time. Every platform along the route between Sandyford and Beechwood would have to be rebuilt to cater for higher-floor metro trains. Some of the line would have to be taken up to allow for cut-and-cover tunnelling beneath it. Dunville Avenue, a narrow but crucial link between Ranelagh and Rathmines, would have to be closed permanently to permit the unimpeded operation of higher-frequency metro services.

No wonder there was a campaign against it all, led by Senator Michael McDowell and the Rethink MetroLink lobby. Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and Jim O'Callaghan of Fianna Fáil rowed in behind it, while Minister for Transport Shane Ross, an Independent Alliance TD whose Rathdown constituency is served by the Green Line, said he would "not countenance" its upheaval for up to four years. But with strong political support in Fingal for the northside leg of MetroLink, at least that part of the project is likely to proceed.

In the meantime, our transport planners should look into the possibility of providing surface-running Luas lines that would feed into MetroLink at Charlemont from UCD Belfield as well as the poorly-served southwestern sector of the city, including Rathmines, Harold's Cross, Terenure and Rathfarnham, as proposed by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.