Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
Rail Network Expansion
54. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to proceed with the MetroLink project from Swords to Dublin city centre as a priority; if the entire project will not delayed by the southside alignment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7058/19]
Proceeding with the MetroLink project as planned is of the utmost importance to my constituents and indeed to the entire city of Dublin. An affordable light rail link will not only reduce traffic from Swords to the city centre, but the rail will also allow for residents to commute quickly, cheaply and sustainably. The construction of a northside line must be a priority. It has been promised to my constituents for many years and increasing the public transportation options in the area will improve many of their lives immensely and indeed the quality of their lives.
MetroLink is one of the flagship projects proposed for delivery under Project Ireland 2040. The project envisages the development of a north-south urban railway service that will run between Swords and Sandyford, connecting key destinations along the 26 km route. A large proportion of the route will be underground, including where it passes under the important city centre area and Dublin Airport.
As the Deputy alludes to, the project, as published in Project Ireland 2040, plans to integrate into the current Luas green line on the southside of the city, and to upgrade the integrated segment to a higher, metro level, standard of service. MetroLink will open for passenger services in 2027, towards the end of the next decade, and it will need to address our city's travel needs into the mid years of this century and beyond. We are looking to deliver the long term, sustainable solution to Dublin's transport needs so it is important that we plan and provide for a network that can cope with the higher travel demands expected along the green line into the future, as these will exceed the capacity that would be possible with only a Luas type service.
In line with the relevant statutory framework, the MetroLink project is being developed by the NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII. Last year the two agencies completed a public consultation process on the emerging preferred route. That process was one in which communities along the entire route and beyond took a keen interest and approximately 8,000 submissions were received in relation to various aspects as they impacted both northside and southside of the city. Since that process concluded, both agencies have been considering the thousands of submissions received with a view to developing what will be known as the preferred route. This preferred route will reflect the NTA's and TII’s consideration of the issues raised and a further round of public consultation will take place shortly on this preferred route. Following that the NTA and TII will develop a final route which will be the one brought forward to An Bord Pleanála for its consideration as part of the planning process.
I can understand the Deputy’s perspective as he has raised it here today, but I am sure he can understand that it would be wholly inappropriate for me to comment on particular route alignments while work is under way by the relevant statutory agencies.
Although there have been many complaints that the MetroLink is not needed where the green Luas line already runs, I would like to emphasise that this sentiment is not shared by residents on the northside of Dublin who desperately want a rail system built to connect them to the capital. MetroLink should revise the current project plans and divide the construction into two phases. That way the northside construction can proceed as scheduled, unaffected by the delay caused by protesting residents on the southside.
There is a massive infrastructure deficit on the M1 Corridor with traffic bumper to bumper on a good morning. This is adversely affecting all bus routes, including express services which cannot avoid the congestion. On a bad morning, if there is a breakdown or an accident, everything on the M1 just grinds to a halt. The MetroLink is the best solution to this problem because it will reduce traffic on the roads, while also quickly moving more people to the airport, the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and Dublin city centre. Reduced traffic leads to less road traffic accidents, as the Minister will appreciate as he also has responsibility for that, and faster commute times.
I appreciate the frustration which the Deputy is expressing about the northside but it is not just a northside problem. It is not something which is just affecting the northside and it not just because of the delays in the planning that is going on in the southside around the emerging route and the preferred route. All of those are factors of course but there have also been factors on the northside. The areas where the concerns have had the highest public profile have been with CLG Na Fianna, the adjacent Scoil Mobhí and Scoil Chaitríona in the Glasnevin area and Dunville Avenue in Ranelagh on the southside. Other locations of concern include Swords and O'Connell Street and whether the tunnel configuration would be twin or single bore. On Ranelagh, the NTA has prepared and presented two proposals: bridge and cutting options, with more design work to be carried out on these options. The proposed MetroLink station development in the Tara Street area has been identified by TII and the NTA as a key connection area, as it will provide interchange between MetroLink, DART and suburban services. Various options have been explored by TII and the NTA and the preferred option identified would require the acquisition and demolition of the College Gate Apartments and other buildings in the area. The NTA and TII have received a submission from the residents that identifies alternative sites and are currently assessing whether these are feasible.
The construction of a new rail line will allow for local small businesses to grow, along with the potential development of a new tourism sector. As Swords is the closest town to the airport, it could be a popular stay over location for tourists if there is an easy access rail line for them to use. MetroLink will provide residents with greater job opportunities because those without cars will no longer be restricted to areas covered by the current bus routes. We in Fingal have been excessively patient on this project. Northside MetroLink should not be further delayed due to opposition to the southside alignment.
The southside already has a Luas line and is relatively well served. A cynic would say the project is almost designed to fail if these southside objections are allowed to delay the project even further. I ask the Minister to fast-track the northside alignment. It is badly needed. Enough analysis has been done on the Swords-to-city-centre route to move that element forward. The solution is to divide the project into two phases and move on with the northside phase. The CEO of Fingal County Council also expressed frustration on this matter last evening to the councillors in the chamber.
It is. There are also the planning difficulties being experienced there in various areas. This is not a one-sided coin. There will always be planning difficulties, objections and public consultations. There will always be controversies about a project as big as this. We cannot object to the people of the southside having their say and having public consultations in Ranelagh and elsewhere, as was the case on the northside. To be fair, pointing the finger one way will only provoke people from the other side of Dublin to point at the northside. This is a great project.