DUBLIN’S metro system could be fully operational by 2015 if planning permission for the e5 billion project is granted this year.
A public hearing of An Bord Pleanála yesterday heard that the controversial underground light rail system is the biggest public infrastructural project in the history of the state.
The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) — overseeing the planning of the metro — said it would create 4,000 jobs during the construction phase, and another 2,000 indirectly. "If approved, it will bring a myriad of benefits to our capital city," said James Connolly SC, for the RPA.
Separately, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey hit out at critics yesterday who suggested the project should not go ahead due to the economic downturn.
Addressing a conference in north Dublin, Mr Dempsey said opponents of the metro had made "ill-informed" and "ignorant" remarks in claiming it required future growth to justify its construction. Mr Dempsey said he would be recommending that the Government approve funding. .
"I can assure you that 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," said Mr Dempsey.
The minister pointed out that average car journey time between Swords and the city centre was 81 minutes, compared with around 30 minutes by the metro.
Meanwhile, Mr Connolly told the hearing it was hoped construction could begin next year, with completion of the metro by 2015. The 18-km route will run from St Stephen’s Green to Belinstown, 2km north of Swords.
"It will be a fast, reliable regular and efficient transport option for north Dublin," he said, adding that the metro would carry 35 million passengers in its first year and would be staffed by 350. Trains will generally operate from 5am-1am and run at four-minute intervals at peak period, carrying 20,000 passengers in each direction on an hourly basis.
The RPA said the metro would reduce traffic congestion, while creative a positive image of Dublin.
Mr Connolly said a comprehensive traffic management plan would have to be introduced to facilitate work on the construction of the metro. However, the RPA has predicted average peak-hour bus speeds will increase as a result of restrictions on private cars around College Green.
Several statues on O’Connell Street, including those of Daniel O’Connell and Jim Larkin, will be temporarily removed to the National Museum, while 20% of space in St Stephen’s Green will also be required for storage work which will result in the temporary removal of the Fusiliers’ Arch.
A temporary bridge will also be built over the River Liffey between Eden Quay and Burgh Quay, while 150 bus routes will be altered.
Addressing the fears of residents, Mr Connolly said the RPA was satisfied that the tunnel (at a general depth of 20 metres) will be sufficiently deep that its construction should not adversely affect any buildings directly overhead. However, he said the RPA had introduced a fast-track protection scheme for property owners along the route providing compensation of up to e30,000.
Mr Connolly said it was not releasing any estimate about its projected cost for commercial reasons.
The hearing is expected to last around eight weeks.