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MetroLink needs to coexist with Dublin communities

Ranelagh opposition could mean years of metro line plans derailed yet again

If you feel like you’ve been hearing about Dublin’s MetroLink forever, you are pretty much right. Along with Fine Gael’s Sagrada Familia – aka the national children’s hospital – the novel concept of expanding a rail network including putting parts of it underground in a capital city has long been both mooted and booted around. Now we’re in a situation where, after two decades of proposals and plans, opposition in Ranelagh could scupper the plan yet again.

MetroLink has had an identity crisis of sorts, caught up in a muddle of pie in the sky plans over the years that oscillate between subways to expanded Luas lines and faster overground trains. But suffice to say, where we are at now, the MetroLink plan is a combination of what was the Metro North plan, the Dublin Airport to city link, the metro plans for the city centre, and then an extended line out to the southside of Dublin.

When the National Transport Authority published the proposed route last year, the opposition to it coalesced around the closure of the through road at Dunville Avenue to Beechwood Road. Ranelagh said no. Another plan to extend the metro tunnel beyond the Charlemont Luas stop meant part of the Green Line Luas would close for two to four years to accommodate the metro construction. That wasn’t going to fly either. As Olivia Kelly reported in this newsapper, the NTA “came under pressure from senior politicians” including the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ranelagh prefect Eoghan Murphy.


The ability of local interests to stall things says as much about the flimsiness of the metro plans over the years as it does about the level of pressure Ranelagh-ites can exert when they need to. Ranelagh, an archipelago made up of islands of restaurants surrounded by oceans of wealth, is one of the most expensive place in the country to buy a house. Some 99 per cent of young adults in Dublin 6 go to college, the highest participation rate in the nation. Let’s face it, if they don’t want something to happen in that part of the world, it’s probably not going to. This is the land of judges and lawyers, doctors and developers, bankers and architects. But if Ranelagh’s local interests once again delay the metro, that’s a systemic fault, not just Nimby-ism.


In April 2000, the Japanese company Mitsui delivered a presentation to cabinet members and others proposing an underground metro rail service linking Ranelagh and Dublin Airport, and also serving Blanchardstown. An Irish Times editorial on April 11th, 2000, read: “The Government needs to present a coherent longer-term strategy. Here the plan being put forward by the Dublin Transportation Office – the authors of the Dublin Transportation Initiative – may provide some guidance on the way to develop the kind of comprehensive, interlinked transport structure required by a modern city. Implementing the required major investments will then, of course, be a formidable challenge in itself.”

Underground section

In February 2002, the Green Party’s then transport spokesman, Eamon Ryan, spoke about his party’s proposals for the metro. The Green Party’s idea then was for the underground section to run for 6km near Dunville Avenue in Ranelagh (sound familiar?), with stations at Harcourt, St Stephen’s Green, Tara Street, the Rotunda and Broadstone. Broadstone now has a Cross City Luas stop.

“Cllr Ryan admitted he had changed his mind about the need for a metro because it was clear the Luas light rail system now under construction would not be sufficient to meet demand,” a report in The Irish Times read. If Ryan (and fair play to him) was able to identify capacity issues with the Luas Green Line 17 years ago, before it was even built, how has it taken us so long to remedy that?

In January 2003, the then minister for transport, Séamus Brennan, brought proposals to cabinet for a part-underground metro link to Dublin Airport with the estimated cost of at least €2 billion. Brennan said the airport rail link would be in place by 2007, a date that was to happily coincide with a general election.

The financial implosion acted as a great desk-clearer for government spending, which pivoted to crisis management. The recession allowed government to act as a Marie Kondo-type appraiser on behalf of the public, picking up and setting aside plans that now felt like clutter. The Metro got added to a list of things that did not spark joy.


Public transport infrastructure is not a pet project, yet too often it falls foul of electioneering, capitulating politicians, poor planning and local uproar. Ultimately, it’s only the local uproar that ever has a point. I’m not saying they’re right in Ranelagh – in fact, the whole thing is ridiculous – but frequently the poor planning and poorer communication around infrastructure can lead to a “doing to” rather than “doing for” perception.

There has to be a balance between detracting from and adding to roads or junctions or villages or areas when it comes to transport planning. Instead of what feels like drawing lines through the suburbs on the back of an envelope, we have to navigate and negotiate a network that coexists with and assists Dublin communities and commuters. Local objections will always cut through when plans are so penetrable and wobbly in the first place. Who is going to be most convincing force? The people who know what they want, and often more importantly, what they do not.