Seanad debates

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Light Rail Projects

10:30 am

Photo of Pippa HackettPippa Hackett (Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator for his kind words at the start of his remarks. I am here on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Ryan, who is taking Oral Questions in the other House. It is a rather unfortunate clash but that is the way it goes. I thank the Senator for the opportunity to address this issue in the House today.

This Government is committed to a fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland. We believe that to deliver on this commitment means we need a whole-system perspective across all modes of transport, whether that is active travel, bus or rail. That means developing evidence-based, multi-modal transport strategies that guide development over the medium and longer term. These transport strategies should be integrated with land-use plans and enable local authorities to locate houses, jobs and other demand attractors along high-capacity transport corridors.This is the type of framework that many of our European and international peers use and it is the framework that can deliver fundamental change. We are beginning to see the emergence of that framework in Ireland.

There is a statutory 20-year transport strategy in the greater Dublin area, GDA. The strategy covers all modes in all counties in the GDA, that is, Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. The transport strategy must be reflected in all land use plans and is subject to extensive and statutory consultation during its development. The historical complaint that there is no transport strategy for Dublin no longer holds. As part of the current transport strategy, there were plans for two metro lines, effectively, a metro north and a metro south. Those projects were initially considered for development as one project, known as MetroLink. That project was subject to extensive, non-statutory public consultation. During that consultation various issues were raised regarding the proposed route, particularly regarding the proposed upgrade of the existing Luas green line. In response to those issues, the preferred route for MetroLink is now proposed to link the estuary in north County Dublin with Charlemont on the Grand Canal. The project will be future-proofed so that a connection between the MetroLink and the Luas green line can be provided in the future.

However, we still must tackle capacity on the Luas green line. There are two approaches to that. First, there is an ongoing Luas green line capacity enhancement project. This project has already delivered an expanded depot in Sandyford and is increasing all 26 existing trams to 55 m in length. Fifteen of those extensions are already in service, with another two due this month. Second, there are eight additional 55 m trams arriving, with three of the trams already here and the rest scheduled to arrive in the first quarter of next year. This project will increase capacity by almost 30% compared to previous capacity. However, more is needed to cope with the expected increase in demand on the Luas green line and other options are under consideration over the medium term, above and beyond the current project.

Returning to the transport strategy, there is a need to review and refresh it to ensure it is kept up to date and informed by latest developments. The need to review and refresh is a requirement of the legislation, which states that the strategy must be reviewed every six years. The NTA has started work on the review and, next year, will launch a public consultation and engage with the public on this issue. As part of the review, the NTA will commission analysis of other potential metro routes in Dublin, such as a metro to the south east or to the south west, and establish a refreshed evidence base to underpin transport planning in the region. These analyses will be published as part of next year's consultation on the broader strategy.

I hope this clarifies the situation for the Senator and look forward to hearing his views.


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