WITH A flash and a large plume of smoke, the last piece of railway track was welded into place on the Luas Cherrywood extension yesterday.
The €300 million extension to the line, which is expected to open to the public in October, is already wired and "live", with testing of trams expected to begin late next month.
At 7.5km, the extension almost doubles the initial 9km length of the Luas Green line from St Stephen's Green to Sandyford. It is to have 12 stops between Sandyford and Brides Glen, about 1km beyond Cherrywood.
While most of the Luas Green line follows the route of the former Harcourt Street railway to Brides Glen, the extension deviates from the original.
It turns southwest alongside the prominent Vodafone building at Central Park, across the M50 and continues to Glencairn, close to the British ambassador's residence. From there, it turns back to the Ballyogan Road and across the M50 to Leopardstown.
After the final weld yesterday, chief executive of the Railway Procurement Agency Frank Allen said the deviation was to tie in with high levels of development around Glencairn, the Gallops, and along Ballyogan Road, all planned in tandem with the Luas.
Property developers within 1km of the Luas line were charged a special development levy, in a move designed to raise about €150 million of the cost of the extension.
Many of these developments were apartment blocks of between five and seven storeys which are now largely vacant.
However, Tom Manning of the Railway Procurement Agency said the property developers' difficulties had not affected the line's development.
"There is a 30-year timeframe for the State to recoup the money, so that could be as many as three or more economic cycles," he said.
At €300 million, the route has cost €40 million a kilometre.
The first phase of the Luas light rail worked out at €35 million per kilometre.
Iarnród Éireann confirmed yesterday there would be a three-year additional delay to the planned opening of its Dart underground project.
Public consultation on the project, now not due to be completed until 2018, continues.
Meetings will be held between 5pm and 8pm on each of the following dates at these venues: Today: the Atrium, Civic Offices, Wood Quay; Monday, May 10th, the Alexander Hotel, Fenian Street; Tuesday, May 11th, Hilton Hotel, Kilmainham, Dublin 8; and Thursday, May 13th, Sean O'Casey Community Centre, East Wall, Dublin 3.
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