Monday 3 October 2011

Metro West plan postponed due to economic climate, says Varadkar

PLANNING FOR Metro West – a new rail line to link Ballymun and Tallaght – has been frozen, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar announced yesterday.

Mr Varadkar said he had instructed the Railway Procurement Agency to withdraw its application for a railway order from An Bord Pleanála.

He said the move did not mean the project was cancelled, simply that it was postponed. The Minister said that even as a partnership with the private sector it would have required “a significant exchequer contribution”.

“Metro West has always been considered a long-term project and many of the new communities that it will serve have not materialised due to the collapse in home building,” he said.

He also revealed that since the financial crisis began three years ago, none of the Government’s planned major public-private partnerships (PPPs) had secured funding.

He said: “The successful awarding of a major PPP contract involving private funding is challenging at any time but particularly in current circumstances. No major PPP project has secured funding since the financial crisis began three years ago.

“Until financial credibility is restored, the international debt funding market will be reluctant to lend funds to finance projects in Ireland, the repayment of which is ultimately dependant on the State. Moreover, the exchequer will not be able to make its contribution to the cost in the foreseeable future.”

Asked if this meant the Government would not be able to make its contribution to the cost of the full range of public-private partnerships, a spokesman said Mr Varadkar had been speaking only in relation to Metro West.

The spokesman said all other transport projects would be brought to planning finality and a decision taken in relation to available capital funding at that time.

Meanwhile, An Taisce chairman Charles Stanley-Smith said Mr Varadkar’s decision was “a welcome act of sanity and the only responsible approach in the context of the economic constraints facing the country and the lack of funding for the project”. He said the proposal included an “unacceptable” crossing of the river Liffey valley at one of its most scenic points and in the heart of the Special Amenity Area Order. “We are calling for more of this responsible decision-making and for a transport solution for Dublin that is fit for people’s needs now and the country’s capacity to deliver it.”

Mr Stanley-Smith said that, in the short term, the expense of an oral hearing has also been saved. This would have cost the local community hundreds of thousands of euro.

However, Fianna Fáil councillor David McGuinness described the decision as “short-sighted and premature”.

Mr McGuinness said that “while everyone recognises that to commence construction of this project was unlikely in the short term, to not advance it to a shovel-ready status is the wrong decision and shows a worrying lack of vision for public transport in Dublin West by Minister Varadkar”.

Irish Times

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