The Dublin Metrolink: What do we know?

Dublin is the one of few capital cities in the European Union that does not have a reliable transportation system leading from the airport to the city centre. There have been proposals for a rail link for more than 20 years, but the high cost and planning delays mean that no work has ever started on it.

The idea for an underground transportation system has been in the mix for years, starting in November 2001, with the proposal of the “Platform for Change” project. This project then became known as Metro North, and it was included in the Government’s 2005 transport plan called Transport 21. But after the economic crash of 2007-2008, it was postponed indefinitely.

As the approval and start date for the project has been delayed, the estimated cost has gone up and up over the last 20 years. The project is now back on the agenda, this time called Metrolink, and it is estimated to cost €9.5 to €12.3 billion due to the complexity of the construction process of the sturdy underground tunnels.

We know from other projects, such as the National Children’s Hospital, that this cost will only get higher as we wait for a decision to go ahead. The Metrolink project consists of a 19-kilometre stretch of railway, stopping off at 14 underground stations, and another station above the ground. The Link is proposed to run from Swords in north county Dublin to South Dublin, with major stations at Dublin Airport and Glasnevin.

The project is now due to be resumed in 2026 – 2031. There is a lot of focus on the huge cost of the project, but it would also bring huge economic benefits.

Firstly, it would help deal with the seemingly never-ending issue of rush hour traffic from the north Dublin suburbs. Joining the city centre and the airport by a rail line would be likely to make Ireland more attractive to tourists, benefiting the economy.

It would also make it much more attractive for businesses to set up in north County Dublin, and for people to live there, due to the presence of a good fast rail link to the city and the airport.

There are a number of areas along the proposed rail line where the local communities are objecting to the plan. However, the experience of communities living alongside other railway lines is that the price of their houses rises.

According to Martin Clancy of the property website, “access to transport infrastructure is, unsurprisingly, driving up premiums for properties with good connectivity.” As far back as 2018, Daft said that on average, homes on the Luas line cost over €60,000 more than the average cost of a Dublin home.

Glasnevin is planned to be home to the largest Metrolink Station, with a time frame of eight years and three months for the construction of the future complex station there. Home residents here have objected, due to plans to demolish a community-loved, 200-year-old pub, ‘The Brian Boru’. The famous pub, mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses, located on Prospect Road, Glasnevin is planned to be demolished in the construction process of the Glasnevin Metro Link station.

On the southern end of the planned Metrolink, residents near the planned station at Charlemont have also objected. One of their local TDs Jim O’Callaghan gave evidence at the planning hearing held by An Bord Pleanala in February this year that the station should be axed altogether. O’Callaghan said putting the terminus at Charlemont would have “a severely detrimental effect” on the area. “Ten million patrons a year will visit Charlemont station – that is not a tenable situation.”

O’Callaghan objected the station because he thought that in the future the Metrolink would be extended further south along the Luas line, thus causing major disruption to local people all along the line while it was being built. Meanwhile, another politician, Labour Senator Marie Sherlock, objected because she said it would be impossible to drive through Phibsborough while it was being built.

All of these objections are based on local issues, and they don’t look at the big picture. Rail lines can transform the economic life of a city, and also make it a better place to live. The Luas Green line runs to Cherrywood, and that means that this huge area is now being developed with businesses, apartments, and shops all being built. This takes people away from the already overcrowded city centre.

The Luas Red Line has helped the entire docks area north of the Liffey, with its banks and accountancy and law firms, be developed. It has done the same for the businesses around Heuston station and further out to Tallaght. Famously in London, the extension of the underground Jubilee Line was criticised before it was finished in 1999 as one of the most expensive projects in the world. But it provided a transport line to areas such as Canary Wharf, which has since become London’s second financial district, rivalling the actual City of London.

Metrolink is still going through the planning process in Dublin, and if it goes ahead, the cost will be enormous. But will Dublin benefit in the future as a result?

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