THE introduction of a congestion charge in Dublin will have to be considered before construction works begin on Metro North in just two years' time.
And a ban on private cars in the city centre could be in place by the end of next year, with traffic re-routed across a new bridge at Macken Street and cars taken off Westmoreland and O'Connell streets to avoid chaos during construction works.
Speaking at the launch of a public consultation on the future of transport yesterday, Director of the Dublin Transportation Office John Henry said cars would be "re-routed" from Dame Street, College Green, Westmoreland Street and O'Connell Street up to a year before works begin in 2010 -- and the measure could be permanent.
"Most traffic on O'Connell Street and Westmoreland Street goes to Parnell Square and onwards. We're not banning cars, but re-routing," he said.
"The plan is likely to be made a permanent solution. It (the city centre ) won't be entirely car-free, traffic that doesn't need to be there will be re-routed. It should be in place a year before construction begins to bed in."
And he said that congestion charging "could come".
"We're going to have to look at that because we have to plan," he said.
The possibility of a congestion charge being introduced was criticised by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, which said the capital suffered from a "severe public transport deficit".
The Railway Procurement Agency, responsible for delivering Metro North by 2013, said it expects to apply for planning permission to build the Metro North line from St Stephen's Green to Lissenhall in north Dublin by the autumn.
It will also produce a detailed traffic management plan, which will state where private vehicles can travel in the city.
The main construction works would begin at the end of 2010 or early in 2011, meaning a ban on private cars in the city could be in place by late in 2009.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said yesterday that managing the disruption would be "very important".
"Every day that passes, we're near the traffic management plan," he said. "Every consideration is being given to every aspect. How you manage that disruption is very important.
"There will certainly be a lessening of capacity for cars in the city centre, so we have to ensure there's public transport to provide the capacity. We're trying to ensure that when that disruption takes place, the message will be loud and clear that the city centre is open for business."
In a separate development, Mr Dempsey said a proposed new Luas line linking Dundrum with Harold's Cross would be difficult to build because of "very difficult constraints" including the requirement to take gardens from 150 homes and a number of "pinch points" along the route.
"It does seem to me it will be very difficult to enhance transport along that corridor -- 150 people are not going to be happy to lose a bit of their garden. You certainly couldn't run Luas, bus and cars along the same corridor."