THE Government plans to build a network of rapid-transit bus services in the capital instead of expensive light-rail systems.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has begun developing proposals for four Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors, which could be developed at a fraction of the cost of Metro North or other Luas tram systems, it emerged yesterday.
BRT involves buses running on lanes which are segregated from all other traffic, including taxis. The vehicles are also given priority at traffic lights. There will also be measures to reduce dwell times at stops such as multiple door opening and off-vehicle ticket purchasing.
Last week the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA), which plans Luas and Metro projects, was given new powers extending its remit to include BRT and early planning work has begun on four lines to Dublin city centre from the Stillorgan Road, Blanchardstown, Malahide and Lucan.
It is understood that a 'Blue Line' BRT on the Stillorgan Road would include a route from St Vincent's Hospital to Sandyford -- estimated by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to cost €33m.
It would include 10 stops, carrying 1,000 passengers per hour each way with buses every six minutes at peak times.
The moves comes as Transport Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday confirmed he had suspended the planning process for the proposed 25km Metro West light-rail system which was planned to link the major suburbs of Tallaght, Clondalkin and Blanchardstown before terminating at Dardistown.
A public hearing into the line was due to begin on October 4 next, but the planning application has been withdrawn due to a lack of funding.
"Metro West was to be procured as a Public Private Partnership (PPP), however, a significant exchequer contribution would also have been required," Mr Varadkar said.
"The successful awarding of a major PPP contract involving private funding is challenging at any time but particularly in current circumstances.
"This does not mean that Metro West has been cancelled. However, with very limited funding available for capital projects over the next few years, I did not consider it to be a good use of taxpayers' money to advance Metro West any further."
The Government is expected to publish a review of its capital spending programme next month which will outline how much will be spent on new public transport projects up to 2017.
There are four major rail projects in the mix -- Metro North, DART Underground, an extension of the DART line to Dublin Airport and a link-up of the two Luas lines in Dublin.
It is likely that Metro North and DART Underground will be shelved while one of the other projects may go ahead.
Metro North and DART Underground are costed at more than €2bn each. But BRT is also being considered because it is far cheaper to build than rail.
Yesterday Mr Varadkar said he was keen to explore the use of BRT, if money was available.
"BRT is effectively a Luas on wheels which can be delivered at a much lower cost," he told the Irish Independent.
"It has already been provided successfully in a number of cities, including Cambridge in the UK and Eindhoven in the Netherlands. It's definitely something that we would like to pursue if we have the funding."