Dublin’s Metro should be up and running by 2012 carrying 80,000 passengers a day from St Stephen's Green to Swords, via the airport, it was claimed today.
As the three route options were unveiled, transport minister Martin Cullen claimed the 18km Metro North line would cut car journeys in the capital by 15 million a year.
Mr Cullen said the project will take four years to construct and will be paid for out of the Government's €34bn Transport 21 plan.
Minister Cullen refused to predict exactly how much the metro would cost.
“I’m not going to go out in the market with predicted figures opening up a mugging for the state. We know in broad terms what the project will cost,” the minister said.
All three routes start at Stephen’s Green running under Trinity College and the River Liffey before crossing beneath O’Connell Street.
Proposals on a central, west and east line are being put forward.
All three include underground sections, several kilometres at street level and an elevated section.
Plans for the central line, which the Railway Procurement Agency believes is the best, have included options for stations at stops including O’Connell Street, Mater Hospital and Botanic Road.
The line would come above ground before running onto Ballymun, out to the airport and onwards to Swords.
The west route has possible stops at Tower Street, the Rotunda and Broadstone before crossing the Cabra Road, running on to Finglas crossing the M50 near the exit for the N2 and onto the airport and Swords.
The east line includes possible stations at Hawkins Street, O’Connell Street, Mater Hospital, Drumcondra and Griffith Avenue before coming above ground near Whitehall. This line would then stop at Santry, the Clonshaugh Road before heading on to the airport.
A public consultation process began today giving businesses and residents along the proposed routes a chance to give their opinions. Public meetings will also take place between now and July for people to voice their concerns.
It is hoped the Metro will remove 41,000 cars a day from Dublin’s streets, with a train running at least every four minutes. Journey times from the city centre to the airport will take 17 minutes while commuters travelling to Swords will spend 26 minutes on the Metro.
Plans are already underway to ensure this system integrates with other services in the city including Luas, bus services and inter-city rail networks.
“Metro will reduce travel times and congestion, improve the reliability, availability and quality of public transport, and make public transport more attractive to car users,” Mr Cullen said.
“Reducing car journeys can only have a beneficial effect on the net air quality in Dublin. Metro is set to improve the quality of life for the people of Dublin and for those visiting the capital on business or as tourists.”
Padraic White, RPA chairman, said: “While the Metro would serve the airport it was estimated that 80 per cent of passengers would be commuters living on Dublin’s north side.”
He revealed the RPA would choose the preferred route in July and a formal railway order would be submitted to the minister in 2007.
Work on the Metro, which will last for at least four years looks set to begin in 2008 with the RPA overseeing the project with the help of Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council and the Dublin Airport Authority.
Tests on underground conditions throughout the city are due to begin in the coming weeks but the RPA insisted Metro North would not run into many of the problems and controversies which surrounded the over-budget, behind schedule Dublin port tunnel.
Officials revealed the Metro tunnel would be at least half the size at 5.5 metres, built between 20 to 50 metres below the surface for some eight-nine kilometres.
Mr White also said the RPA was committed to giving residents and businesses their say on the massive project.
“Consultation is an essential part of the process in the delivery of Metro North and we are determined to make this process of consultation as extensive as possible whilst sticking to a very ambitious deadline,” he said.
Mr Cullen and the RPA also said plans and proposals for Metro lines in the west of the city serving Clondalkin, Tallaght and Blanchardstown would also be published in the coming months with a view to begin construction in the next five years.