Wednesday 4 August 2010

Transport plan would transform green

ST STEPHEN’S Green will be the principal casualty of the Government’s plans to go ahead with Metro North and Dart Underground, it is now clear from the environmental impact statement (EIS) on each of these costly projects.

The current construction cost estimate for Dart Underground, which is planned as the central spine of Dublin’s commuter rail services, is €2.5 billion. No figures are officially available for Metro North, but in 2005 it was estimated to cost €4.58 billion.

The Dart Underground EIS says construction of a shared station below ground at St Stephen’s Green as well as ventilation/intervention structures “will introduce major changes to the landscape and visual character and setting of the park”.

Describing these as the “most significant townscape and visual impacts” of the two projects, it says changes would include the temporary removal of some sections of boundary railings and park features as well as the felling of dozens of mature trees.

“The construction phase will result in significant impact on the landscape and visual amenity of the park, particularly from within the park, where the existing sense of ‘escape from the city’ will be lost” – at least until new semi-mature trees re-establish it.

The “ventilation/intervention” structure, to be built immediately behind the railings on the north side of the green, would be up to 4.2m high and 23.7m long; it would be impossible to provide screening for this building.

As the EIS on Metro North makes clear, most of the northwestern quadrant of St Stephen’s Green would be directly affected by the excavations for the two linked underground stations – including the lake populated by ducks, swans and waterhens.

It is understood that an earlier proposal by the Railway Procurement Agency to remove the Fusiliers’ Arch, facing the top of Grafton Street, has been reconsidered; instead, it would be retained in situ while the area around it is excavated to a considerable depth.

Hundreds of trucks would be needed to remove the spoil from the excavations for underground stations at St Stephen’s Green as well as O’Connell Bridge, Parnell Square East, the Mater hospital and other locations along the route of Metro North.

In the case of Dart Underground, the existing open-air amphitheatre at the Civic Offices on Wood Quay would be replaced by a “new urban civic space” that would include the entrance to an underground station north of Christ Church Cathedral.

This “will change the visual character and function of the space”, as the EIS says. “Nearby, a new ventilation structure will be introduced to the south side of the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Cook Street” – commonly known as Merchant’s Quay Church.

During excavation works for each underground station, spoil would be removed by a fleet of trucks; in the case of St Stephen’s Green, there would be 198 truck movements per day in each direction – and this traffic would continue for 20 months.

It is also clear from the EIS that passengers seeking to connect with the existing Dart line at Pearse Station, Westland Row, would face a long walk as the new underground station is proposed to be built at the junction of Boyne Street and Sandwith Street.

The twin tunnels for Dart Underground, from Inchicore to Docklands, would be be excavated by a tunnel boring machine similar to that used in excavating the Dublin Port Tunnel. Additional excavation work would be required for the five underground stations.

“Significant works” are proposed within the historic Inchicore railway yards, “with the demolition of many existing buildings and the provision of a new station facility that will open up the site to greater public access”. This is being opposed by a local group.

August 18th is the deadline for making submissions to An Bord Pleanála on CIÉ’s application for a Railway Order. The four-volume EIS is available for public inspection at An Bord Pleanála, 64 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1; Civic Offices, Wood Quay, Dublin 8; Heuston Station; Pearse Station; and Inchicore Works, Dublin 8. It may also be viewed on dart

Irish Times

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