Thursday, 24 September 2020
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Light Rail Projects
I echo what the Cathaoirleach said. I welcome the Minister of State. I very much welcome the fact that a Member of this House is a Minister of State. I congratulate the Senator on her appointment. It is a major innovation. The last time this was tried was with the late Senator James Dooge. That was a long time ago. The Constitution provides for someone such as Senator Hackett to be a Minister of State. I am very glad that is the case.
The topic I am raising concerns the future of the MetroLink project and the southern route to be adopted in respect of it.Deputy Ryan, who is now the Minister with responsibility for transport, passionately supported routing the southern end of the project towards Rathfarham and Churchtown, between the red and green lines of the existing Luas structure. On other occasions, he suggested routing it between the DART and the Luas green line towards Belfield and places like that. The one thing he was very clear about was that he opposed the cannibalisation of the Luas green line and its incorporation into the MetroLink project for two reasons. First, it would involve closing the Luas green line for between 18 months and two years. Second, we have that transport corridor which has public transport already established and the aim must be to have different corridors for major investment in public transport infrastructure. I noted that the Government has recently made a statement about the possibility of doing an extension of the Luas toward Finglas and the like. It may be a good idea in itself, but the worrying thing is that it would take at least ten years to be put in place. There is already a complete study and proposal for a Luas-type service to Lucan, which has just been shelved. The vibe I am getting from those involved in the MetroLink project is that they are going ahead with a project as they originally suggested, namely, to bring it to the Charlemont station on the Grand Canal and extend it south from there in a tunnel which would act as a kind of underground depot. This would eventually facilitate the incorporation of the Luas green line into the metro system.
During the last general election campaign, the Minister, Deputy Ryan, in particular campaigned extensively on the proposition that he did not want to end the Luas green line at Charlemont as is proposed by the MetroLink people, but that he wanted to afford different parts of Dublin the advantage of being the southern end of the MetroLink project to Dublin Airport. I now see it is proposed at some stage in the next year to publish a transportation strategy, but my information is that the planning of the MetroLink project, which has already cost a staggering total of €170 million, is proceeding at pace. They are drilling and taking samples of earth in Ely Place, Ranelagh and places like that. They are proceeding as if there were no real option open but to proceed with the proposal they have themselves. As such I ask the Minister of State, who is representing the Minister at this Commencement matters debate, to indicate what it is the Government is proposing. Has it decided to allow MetroLink to proceed as if the election had not happened and as if all of the commitments had not been made, or has there instead been no change in Government policy in this regard?