DUBLIN is to get a new metro rail system costing £4.3bn following Government sanction for the biggest public transport project in the history of the State.
And yesterday the city's motorists were given a vivid example of why it is necessary.
Two giant cranes carrying out construction work in Dawson Street caused huge traffic jams across the southside.
As ministers prepared to announce their plans, drivers were facing delays of up to 90 minutes.
The Government hopes the metro will at last put an end to gridlock of this sort. It will consist of 70 kilometres of track taking in many of the city's suburbs. There will be 14 kilometres underground or tunnelled.
Public Enterprise Minister Mary O'Rourke said the metro would not supercede the LUAS light rail system but would complement it.
The Government has already allocated a total of £373m for the three LUAS lines on which work is proceeding.
The metro system, according to officials behind the project, will mean a 23-minute journey time between the city centre and Dublin airport.
And the aim is that when the system is in operation all city commuters will be within one minute's walk of a rail or bus line.
The minister admitted that disruption was inevitable when the work on the huge project got started but she said she had no ``magic wand'' and what was being done was in the interests of the people and the development of the city's infrastructure.
At full capacity, the metro will cover 130,000 journeys a day and will take a huge strain off the city's traffic-congested streets.
The project will be funded on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis and legislation is to be published early next year to provide for this element of the scheme.
`VISIONARY AND IMAGINATIVE'
While there is no indication yet how much the PPP will raise, Minister O'Rourke said she expected there would be great interest in it when it was put out to tender within 12 months. She said she expected the project to be completed in the year 2016.
``We have taken a long while to catch up with our European neighbours in regard to transport in our capital city,'' she said, but she believed this plan, taken together with the Luas implementation, was ``visionary and imaginative'' and would contribute enormously to the life of the city in years to come.
The metro plan provides for:
* A line from Shanganagh to Swords, via the city centre and Dublin airport, using the old Harcourt Street line and a central tunnel starting at Ranelagh.
* A line from the Shanganagh-Swords line via Finglas, Blanchardstown and Clondalkin to Tallaght.
* A line from City West to the city centre via Tallaght and Kimmage, connecting to the central tunnel on the Shanganagh-Swords line.
Opposition parties said they doubted the Government's real commitment to the improvement of the capital's transport system.
Fine Gael Public Enterprise spokesman Jim Higgins said that, going on the Coalition's record to date in this area, it was doubtful if the plan would ever become a reality.