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Ireland needs to become a nation where things get done - instead of procrastination

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An artist’s impression of how a MetroLink entrance in Dublin would look

An artist’s impression of how a MetroLink entrance in Dublin would look

An artist’s impression of how a MetroLink entrance in Dublin would look

MetroLink would provide the spine of a public transport network that can serve Dublin for the next 150 years.

But procrastination and transport projects go hand-in-hand in Ireland. That's why so many of us are stuck in traffic jams. It's why so many of us face lengthy waits at bus and Luas stops. It's the reason cyclists are forced to mix it with buses and cars as they pour into the city in ever-increasing numbers.

There's a danger that procrastination is about to get in the way once more as we consider the ambitious new MetroLink project. But what the people of Dublin need now is conviction.

We've been talking about and stalling on plans for an underground rail line between Swords and the city centre for far too long. Of course, you could say that about so many transport projects in Dublin.

If only the delivery of new public transport projects in Ireland was as reliable and consistent as the conveyor belt of naysayers who raise their voices anytime a big investment is mooted. 'It's too expensive'. 'It's serving the wrong area'. 'They built the same thing abroad in half the time'. Like the underground trains in London - you can set your watch by them.

It's argued that the cost of building MetroLink is too high. But what is the cost of not building it? The Department of Transport's own figures indicate that congestion in the Dublin region already costs the economy €350m every year. By 2033, the annual cost will be more than €2bn - roughly half the price of building MetroLink.

The naysayers bleated loudly when we built the Port Tunnel. Public parks would disappear, they said. It won't solve the traffic problems, they said. The tunnel won't be high enough. Fast forward to today and it's impossible to quantify the huge benefits the tunnel has brought. Probably the best proof of its success is how the entire city virtually grinds to a halt on a morning or evening when the tunnel is forced to close.

The same negative voices were heard when Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport was proposed. The same Terminal 2 that is full to the brim at peak hours.

The doom-and-gloom merchants chirped loudly when the red and green Luas lines were proposed - both of which are now bursting at the seams every morning and evening. Their opposition to progress in 2018 should come as no surprise.

MetroLink will be one of the biggest and most ambitious transport projects in Ireland. But that should not put us off building it. The preferred route published by the NTA and TII in late March was not perfect. The jury is out on plans to integrate MetroLink with the Luas green line south of Charlemont - the NTA needs to provide more detail on how that will work.

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But there's a great deal to like. Plans to connect MetroLink with the Maynooth and Hazelhatch rail lines are smart. So too is the link-up with the Dart and commuter network via a stop at Tara Street. These connections must be retained in any future version of the plan.

Executing projects like MetroLink are central to achieving the welcome target of reducing private car use in Dublin. It's a policy that's bearing fruit, with the latest Canal Cordon figures showing 9,000 fewer cars driving into Dublin city each morning compared to 12 years ago. For the first time, more than half of commutes are being made on public transport. But if we want to keep moving the dial, we need to be decisive.

Rather than dragging MetroLink back to the drawing board, let's get the spades and drilling machines into the ground. Let's start planning how we're going to maximise its potential by stitching around it a world class bus network and a comprehensive city-wide web of safe cycle lanes. Let's also get going on the Luas lines that have been earmarked for the likes of Bray, Lucan and Finglas.

Before you know it, Dublin could have a public transport network that ranks among the best in Europe. Or, we could keep on procrastinating.

  • Graeme McQueen is head of public affairs at Dublin Chamber

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