Irish Rail warns €2.4bn metro to Dublin Airport may never get off ground
Irish Rail has cast doubt over whether the €2.4bn Metro North project in the capital will ever be built.
And the semi-State company has insisted that provisions must be made for connecting Dublin Airport to the city centre with a Dart spur line instead - a scheme already sidelined by the Government in favour of the Metro project.
Irish Rail's director of infrastructure, Don Cunningham, said that space needs to be set aside at Dublin Airport for the Dart line because of the prospect that "other major rail developments including Metro North will continue to be deferred in the context of funding constraint".
Last September, the Government announced that the Metro North scheme was the favoured project for linking the airport to the city centre.
It was included in the 2016-2022, €27bn capital spending plan. But the Government acknowledged it would take a decade before the 16.5km Metro North line would be operational. Construction is expected to start in 2021.
It had been estimated that the alternative Dart scheme linking the airport would have cost as little as €200m. The 7km Dart line was also Irish Rail's favoured option.
"It is Iarnród Éireann's view that this is a cost effective solution that could, subject to funding, be delivered within a five-year timeframe and at a relatively modest capital cost," according to Mr Cunningham, who made the comments to Fingal County Council on foot of a recent application by the DAA to embark on a major office development at Dublin Airport.
Dublin Airport is growing rapidly. It will handle over 27 million passengers this year and the figure could hit 36 million by 2033.
"Based on the Metro North only proposal, and in the absence of Dart underground, Dublin Airport will remain remote from the national rail network apart from one interchange point with the Maynooth line in the vicinity of Drumcondra," according to Mr Cunningham.
"This is not an attractive option for access to the wider rail network," he said.
"Given the scale of these two projects there has to be concern, in the context of limited funding and the absence of a Dart spur, regarding the timescale for linking the rapidly growing airport to the rail networks."
He said that if a Dart spur line was built, it's possible that in the future some intercity services from Cork, Limerick and Galway could operate directly to and from Dublin Airport.