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10-year plan for underground and rapid rail will cost ?3.4bn

A ?2.4BN metro-style rapid rail link for Dublin's northside and a ?1bn underground rail link connecting Heuston and Connolly stations are included in a 10-year Government transport investment plan to be brought to the Cabinet.

Incinerators and other major infrastructure projects are also to be fast-tracked by a Strategic Infrastructure Board to be established shortly.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the country will have to embrace incineration because it is no longer acceptable to export waste to other countries. His Environment Minister Dick Roche also came out in favour of incineration.

The ambitious investment package has been finalised by a team of senior civil servants in the Department of Transport and will be put before the Cabinet Infrastructure Committee in March by Transport Minister Martin Cullen.

For the first time, the package will give the National Roads Authority a 10-year guaranteed funding programme.

A new Strategic Infrastructure Bill to fast-track major projects such as incinerators is being re-activated by Minister Roche and will be brought to Cabinet shortly. It will clear the way for a National Infrastructure Board to fast-track motorways and incinerators. A previous version of this plan was thrown out by the Cabinet because it included fast-tracking incinerators and superdumps.

Mr Roche yesterday supported incineration, saying it was a safer technology than landfill.

"If the alternative was an incinerator, well-sited and with modern technology, or yet another landfill, I would prefer the former," he told RTE's Pat Kenny.

He said the country had to go the route of incinerator and it was "dishonest" to suggest we could avoid it.

The transport plan will include proposals to speed up motorways and other major projects to meet a new target date of 2010 to finish the motorway network/ dual-carriageway between Dublin and Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway and the Border.

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A proposal for re-opening the Navan rail line between Clonsilla and Dunboyne has also been presented by Iarnrod Eireann.

The investment package disclosure follows criticism by the Taoiseach yesterday about massive delays in getting projects off the ground.

Revealing the radical 10-year package yesterday, Mr Cullen said the plan would facilitate sustainable economic growth, competitiveness and balanced regional development.

Government sources said last night that the plan will include a new rapid rail line which will run between Dublin city centre and the heavily-populated centres of the northside, taking in the airport. It is expected to run via Drumcondra, Finglas or Ballymun.

The underground rail interconnector, which will link Heuston and Connolly stations, will be the next significant project after Dublin Port Tunnel, Luas and the planned metro line to Dublin Airport. It will link all mainline and suburban rail services.

Minister Roche is to separately bring to the Cabinet new proposals shortly to fast track critical infrastructure projects.

This was shot down before because of objections by Michael McDowell over incinerators being pushed through planning process.

Green Party chairman, John Gormley TD, criticised the comments of the Taoiseach in China about the need to fast-track planning decisions.

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