Sunday 24 May 2009

Metro West and Luas extension plan 'delayed indefinitely'

PLANS to build Dublin's proposed Metro West line and the Luas line from Lucan to the city centre have been delayed indefinitely due to budgetary difficulties.

The government has removed the construction and opening target dates for both projects from its latest progress report for potential developers, stating that these were now "under review".

The report also said the construction start and completion dates for both projects were now subject to the "public consultation, statutory planning process, PPP procurement process and funding availability".

Previous updates had indicated that Metro West would be completed by 2014 while the Lucan Luas line was due to have been finished by 2015.

The revelation comes just weeks after transport minister Noel Dempsey reaffirmed his commitment to building the next two phases of the Western Rail Corridor in advance of next month's local elections.

These phases, which run between Athenry and Claremorris, still have firm target dates, even though many commentators believe they are unlikely to attract significant numbers of passengers; a similar stretch of line between Waterford and Limerick Junction is dubbed the "ghost train" in railway circles.

Mark Gleeson of Rail Users Ireland said the two phases were "a political potato" and that the apparent granting of priority to them over Metro West in particular raised issues about the government's decision-making.

Gleeson said Metro West was an important project for Dublin because it was an orbital route which would connect Metro North, the capital's railway lines and the proposed Luas lines without forcing passengers into the city centre to change services.

"It's worry that people are not taking a clinical view of projects in light of the budgetary issues involved. This decision raises serious questions about whether projects are being prioritised in a fair and transparent manner," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport admitted that the target dates for Metro West and the Lucan Luas had been dropped. She claimed, however, that the projects hadn't been delayed and said the Railway Procurement Agency had been told to seek planning permission.

"Once these projects have the necessary planning permission, progress can be made on their delivery as economic circumstances allow," she said. "This will be decided on a case-by-case basis as projects become 'shovel ready'."

She added Metro North was a priority for the minister.

Sunday Tribune

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