Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Metro North

Over the weekend just gone, Eamon Gilmore was interviewed on Marian Finucane's show on RTE radio. By all accounts it was quite a good interview but one item which he mentioned was possibly postponing the building of Metro North. Following on from a brief discussion of MN last week on Twitter with various people I feel the need to put my views on MN on paper.

Firstly, it is not just a link to Dublin Airport. MN is the key north-south spine of the integrated transport system planned for Dublin since the DRRTS report written in the mid 70s. In its current form it joins the city centre with the Interconnector, both Luas lines, and the Maynooth (and Navan whenever it gets re-built) line as well as hitting the Mater Hospital (site of the new children's hospital), DCU, Ballymun, Swords and a park and ride facility near the M1. The entire corridor is earmarked for denser residential development with high-tech and light industry as well as commercial in the mix.

Secondly, we can't just build a spur from Dublin Airport to say Portmarnock and then run trains into town along the existing alignment. This route is already suffering from congestion with the mix of DART, Suburban and Enterprise services and cannot be quad-tracked due to the width of the cuttings from Clontarf through to Kilbarrack.

Thirdly, while it will cost money to build MN, it won't cost money now. It is being built as a PPP, a model that I don't like but in this case it works in our favour. When the line opens in 2017 or thereabouts, we will start paying for it over the next 30 years or so. The expected cost of construction is about €2B so we are effectively taking out a mortgage on the infrastructure. Once paid off we will be able to reap the benefits for years to come. Admittedly rail has a high capital cost, but the return on investment is huge. Consider the line from Pearse to Dun Laoghaire. It was laid in 1834 and with two major changes, 1840s converting from standard to Irish gauge, and 1980s electrification for DART, it is still transporting tens of thousands of passengers a day.

Finally, if we don't build it now, when will we build it? Since DRRTS we have been dragging our heels on bringing Dublin up to 20th century levels. With construction costs substantially down and large numbers of construction workers unemployed this is the perfect project to undertake in the downturn. It is estimated that between 3,000 and 4,000 people will be directly employed on the scheme with an additional 7,000 or so contractors, suppliers, hauliers etc required as well not to mention the infinite number of breakfast roll makers to keep all the above fed.

Between them Metro North and the Interconnector are vital to Dublin's future as a viable city. As projects they are far more important to the nation than many of vanity schemes such as the Western Rail Corridor, Atlantic Road Corridor and the M9 that have already been built or are still on the agenda. Some of those are more like this ...


  1. so dermot thinks that the western rail corridor and the atlantic road corridor are vanity projects i see nothing vain in developing the western region considering the amount of money that was invested in the eastern half of the country during the celtic tiger era at the expense of the west and midlands due to political favourtism.bertie take note!
    i dont know how far our dermot has travelled or what countrys he may have worked in but as a person who has worked in europe the uk and until recently the last 10 years in dublin including the port tunnel and luas projects even a joe soap like me can see that you have to have proper infrastructure over the whole of the country for industry and indeed tourism to thrive we have paid enough of our taxes not to be still driving on dirt tracks and travelling in third world trains.
    if you happen say to visit a small country like holland where i worked in 91 and looked at their infrastructure even then the quality of their road network,transport system,etc.
    go to spain look at their roads and drainage systems!
    we truly have been allowing as a people a bigger banana republic to develop.
    so personally speaking i would love to see metro north proceed if only for the sake of creating much needed employment i take exception to anyone spewing their anti west development crap on a forum a true sign of some one living in a ultra thick non escapable condom!

  2. Ok so maybe vanity is putting it a bit too strongly. But the economic case for MN has been and always will be stronger than WRC or M9. In the WRC case this is especially the case with the parallel development of the improved N18 between Limerick and Galway. High frequency bus direct between the two cities would be far more beneficial.

    I agree that we are massively behind on infrastructure throughout the country. But if you do the maths, compared to population and economic activity, the west has been subsidized by the GDA. When there was money to burn, every marginal FF seat was given some form of investment. Now when we're broke you have to target this investment and MN and the interconnecter are the no brainers.