The planned €3.7bn Metro North line which will link Dublin city centre with the airport and Swords could end up costing €8bn to €9bn, take up to 10 years to complete and bring traffic to a virtual standstill, a business association warned last week.
"Based on past performance by Department of Transport on Luas red and green lines estimated at €400m – actual cost €800m and integrated ticketing now at €50m and no delivery on street – it is difficult for the business community to believe that a 'financial envelope' of €4bn will not become €8bn to €9bn to complete construction," the City Centre Business Association said in submission to the joint committee on transport report.
The association warned the current six-year timeframe for the project does not take into account the digging up of gas, telecom and electrical works which could see the project taking eight to 10 years to complete.
This will "seriously disrupt the city centre economy" with the loss of 4,000 jobs and a loss in taxes for the government of around €300m a year during construction, it said.
The association also warns plans to mine down eight storeys underneath O'Connell Street, D'Olier Street, Westmoreland Street and parts of St Stephen's Green for such a lengthy period will effectively shut down the city centre.
Traffic speed in the city centre is estimated to drop from the current 12km/h to 1.5km/h during construction of the Metro, though traffic management is hoped to get that back up to 9km/h. But even if this is achieved, it will still represent a drop in city centre customers of 36.5m a year or €730m a year in business.
Though supportive of the Metro project, the association wants the government to "review" the project particularly in light of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the public finances.
"There is growing concern that the Metro North project as presently proposed is not serving the city," said the association.
Finance minister Brian Lenihan has ordered all departments to prioritise major capital projects while Taoiseach Brian Cowen told Eamon Gilmore that the government has made no decision to "drop or defer" the Metro project.
"Deputy Gilmore suggested that a decision had been made, or rather, he seemed to suggest that he had knowledge of a decision made to cancel Metro North and I clarified that that was not a correct perception," Cowen said in the Dáil earlier this month.
A spokesman for the Railway Procurement Agency said it had four preferred consortium lined up to design, build and run the Metro and is proceeding as planned. He said it would apply for a railway order/planning permission from An Bord Pleanála next month with a decision expected by next May.
While the government has already given the RPA the go ahead, the spokesman added the signing of irreversible contracts will only be made following cabinet approval.
Given the current timetable, this final decision will come before the cabinet this time next year by which time the economy may have picked up – or worsened.