THE RAILWAY Procurement Agency (RPA) is applying to An Bord Pleanála for a railway order to build Metro North, an 18km light metro line linking Belinstown (north of Swords) with St Stephen's Green, serving Dublin airport along the way.
The proposed scheme is described as "a key element in the creation of a fully integrated public transport network as envisaged in Transport 21", the Government's €34 billion transport investment programme, unveiled with great fanfare at Dublin Castle on November 1st, 2005.
It would interchange with the Sandyford Luas Line at St Stephen's Green and the Tallaght Luas line at O'Connell Street. It would also interchange with the Dart and suburban rail services via the proposed rail interconnector between Heuston station and Docklands.
Another interchange with the Maynooth suburban line is planned at Drumcondra as well as 2,600 "park and ride" spaces along the route so that Metro North would "benefit people from far beyond its immediate catchment area."
According to the RPA, the metro will carry 80,000 passengers a day when it opens in 2014. The proposed scheme would have an ultimate capacity in excess of 40,000 passengers an hour (20,000 in each direction).
"This is beyond the capacity of an on-street light rail system, but will easily be accommodated on metro, which can accommodate longer light metro vehicles (LMVs) operating at a higher frequency", the EIS says. The LMVs would be similar to the Luas.
Each LMV would be 2.4m wide and 45 metres long and would operate in a set of two coupled vehicles.
"The journey time from Swords to the city centre will be about 26 minutes, less than half the time of the same journey by car at peak rush hour," the RPA says.
Stations along the route, even when underground, are referred to as "stops" rather than stations - reinforcing the impression that what's on offer is not a "metro" as in Paris, for example, but a version of Luas, running mainly in very expensive-to-dig tunnels.
The voluminous environmental impact statement (EIS) submitted to An Bord Pleanála says a number of alternatives were examined before the RPA opted for Metro North. These included a proposed rail spur to Dublin airport from the Dart line at Malahide.
"This was not approved as it failed to achieve the Government's objectives . . . In particular, it would not serve as a commuter system for north Dublin . . . and would only serve people wishing to make direct connections between the city centre and the airport."
No cost estimate has been given for the Metro North project. However, it is known that the cost was put at €4.58 billion in 2004 but with construction inflation and changes to the scheme since then the cost is now likely to be well over €5 billion.
The Irish Times