WORK ON the long-awaited Metro North line from St Stephen’s Green to Dublin airport and north Co Dublin will begin in April, the Railway Procurement Agency has said.
However, several city businesses are calling for the Government to cancel the project or postpone it until the economy recovers.
Following several delays in the planning process, Bord Pleanála last month wrote to the RPA stating its intention to issue a decision on the railway order for the Metro by the end of October.
The agency said if the railway order was granted as expected next month, it would be able to start enabling work on the line in April 2011.
One prominent businessman, Colm Carroll, who owns nine gift shops in the city centre, has recently launched No To Metro North, a campaign to stop the project which he said would “rip the whole city apart”, costing thousands of jobs and causing the closure of businesses.
However, the RPA has hit back at Mr Carroll’s claims, and said Metro was essential to the long-term viability of the city.
The enabling works due to start in April – moving utilities, such as gas, and pipes or broadband lines – would have “some impacts”, said project director Rory O’Connor, but new services would be installed before the old ones were cut and the work would be done in sections to minimise traffic disruption.
He said during the construction phase proper, from mid-2012 to 2016, work sites would become “more noticeable”. The front of St Stephen’s Green would be closed to through traffic from Dawson Street to Glovers Alley, with the exception of the set-down area in front of the Fitzwilliam Hotel.
Apart from this area there would be no road closures in the city, but Westmoreland Street would be open only to public transport. Access would be preserved to all premises for servicing and deliveries, with “local diversions” where necessary.
Although the cross-city Luas BXD line no longer has funding under the Government’s current capital programme, Mr O’Connor said that, pending the approval of Bord Pleanála, the RPA still intended to install Luas track at the Metro construction sites, avoiding the need to dig up these sites later when funding is available for the full Luas project.
Mr O’Connor said the construction of Iarnród Éireann’s Dart Underground “will largely run in parallel” with the Metro. However, as the Luas and Dart were separate projects only now at the start of the planning process, there was no guarantee they would be granted planning in time to link up with the Metro construction.
Many calls were made for all three rail schemes to be dealt with as one project, but Mr O’Connor said this was never a realistic option.
“It was not practical for a number of reasons. All three are big enough as they are in terms of trying to raise private financing in the market. You couldn’t get funding if you tried to tie two of them together.”