MINISTER FOR Transport Noel Dempsey yesterday gave a boost to proposers of Metro North, criticising “ignorant” commentators who he said had suggested abandoning the plan.
Speaking at a business seminar in north Dublin just hours before the An Bord Pleanála inquiry into Metro North got under way in Croke Park, Mr Dempsey said: “I’ll be recommending it go ahead if it represents good value for the taxpayer.
“Every analysis, internal and external, says there is a very strong economic case.”
The Minister also said the employment involved in the project, some 4,000 direct and 2,000 indirect construction jobs, “has to be taken into any economic appraisal”.
The Minister’s comments closely echoed the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) submission to An Bord Pleanála that the project would support some 6,000 jobs during a five-year period and enhance economic prospects nationally.
Speaking in Croke Park yesterday for the RPA, James Connolly SC said the metro would represent “probably the biggest infrastructure project in the history of the State”. But he said construction would be accompanied by “the most comprehensive traffic management plan ever undertaken in the Dublin area”.
Mr Connolly said the plan would involve the installation of a “bus-only gate” at College Green, a ban on right turns from Bachelor’s Walk on to O’Connell Bridge and a similar ban on right turns for traffic from O’Connell Bridge to Eden Quay.
It would also require the installation of a new bridge across the Liffey from Hawkins Street to Marlborough Street. Documentation lodged with An Bord Pleanála also revealed some 150 bus stops in the city centre are to be relocated during construction.
Mr Connolly said the plan would be in place throughout the construction period, and would ensure that bus speeds across the city centre would actually increase during the morning peak services, by 1 per cent on average, it has been estimated.
Mr Connolly told the inquiry that statues on O’Connell Street, including the O’Connell monument and those of William Smith O’Brien and Jim Larkin, as well as that of Thomas Moore on College Street, will be relocated to Collins Barracks where they will be reassembled for public display.
Discussions had taken place with the Mater and Rotunda hospitals in relation to mitigation of vibration effects on the hospitals’ equipment, and the RPA was confident these issues could be resolved.
The RPA was also confident the depth of drilling for the tunnel sections would ensure there was no structural damage to property along the route.
Mr Connolly said the metro would involve an 18km route with 17 stops between St Stephen’s Green and Belinstown, north of Swords, including one at Dublin airport. Nine of the stops would be underground.
There would be 35 million passenger journeys on the metro in the first year, with the system having capacity for trains at two-minute intervals.
Chief executive of the RPA Frank Allen said the proposed metro would foster future economic growth but was not dependent upon it. Instead he said the metro was “in large part a response to development that has already taken place”.