Almost €250m spent on Dublin Metro projects and still nothing set in stone

Almost €250m spent on Dublin Metro projects and still nothing set in stone

(Left to right) Peter Walsh, Director of Capital Programmes; Michael Nolan, CEO of Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII); Anne Graham, CEO of National Transport Authority (NTA) and Aidan Foley, Project Director of TII as they announced details in March 2019 of the Preferred Route for MetroLink. File photo: Julien Behal

Almost a quarter of a billion euro has been spent on Dublin’s various Metro projects in the past 15 years, without any construction having ever taken place.

Of that figure, some €70.9m relates to expenditure for which no value has been returned, according to the National Transport Authority (NTA). Internal documents prepared for senior management within the NTA in October detail the total expenditure on the Metro North and Metrolink projects since 2007.

A total of €235.9m has been spent on the two projects over that timeframe - €165.6m on the initial Metro North connection with Dublin Airport up to 2015, and a further €70.3m on Metrolink since March of 2018.

The documents, released to the Irish Examiner under freedom of information, state that €67.1m spent on Metro North “could be considered as lasting value expenditure” in that it is still required for Metrolink.

Of the remaining €98.4m spent, about 28%, or €27.6m, related to staff expenditure and expenses within the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA), the State body with responsibility for light rail infrastructure, which was dissolved in 2015.

The Dublin Metro project has been on the minds of infrastructure chiefs in the capital since a light rail solution for Dublin Airport was first proposed in 2001.

While Metro North, which was greenlit in 2007, was shelved indefinitely in 2011 following the financial crash, the project has been consistently resurrected, most recently in 2015 when plans were laid for the €3bn system that would become Metrolink.

This solution would see the airport connected with Dublin city centre and the southside of the city by 40 trains per hour.

The project came into the limelight once more in November when the publication of the NTA’s new transport strategy for Dublin for the next 10 years appeared to suggest that Metrolink would not see the light of day before the end of this decade, with 2034 the most likely completion date. It’s initial planned completion date had been 2027.

The claim of delay was subsequently strenuously denied by numerous figures including the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who said the fact that the project had been budgeted for in October’s National Development Plan proves it will be completed. However, that plan had simply attributed a ‘Category F’ budget to the project, indicating it will cost more than €1bn, while no completion date was specified.

The NTA briefing materials indicate that Metrolink is aiming for a railway order application (the light rail equivalent of planning permission) in April of 2022 - a procedure which was supposed to have been finalised in 2021. Once granted, the order in theory should give the green light for construction to begin. However, the timeframe allowable for a decision by An Bord Pleanala on such an application is at least 18 months.

The released documents detail two overriding areas of concern for the project at present - concerns at Trinity College regarding the impact of tunnel-boring, and the need for an alternative station access at St Stephen’s Green to ensure any permanent structures are kept outside the park. 

At the Public Accounts Committee in November, the head of the Department of Transport Ken Spratt said it is not possible to give a timeline for the delivery of Metrolink due to the State’s previous “bad experiences” with such enormous infrastructure projects.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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