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Sunday 15 December 2019

Costly Metro North finally hits buffers


Metro North will not proceed and is "no longer viable" given its huge cost, according to a number of senior government sources.

While officially no decision has been taken, several senior government sources have said that in light of "significant cuts" to capital spending, the €5bn pet project of former Transport Minister Noel Dempsey is not viable.

Speaking to this newspaper yesterday, Finance Minister Michael Noonan confirmed that December's Budget would contain significant cuts to both current and capital spending, but was keen to stress that no decision had been taken on this specific project.

A full review of the capital spending programme is under way and will be completed in September, after which a decision will be made on which of the four projects -- Metro North, Dart underground, Dart airport and link-up of the two Luas lines -- will go ahead.

"No decision has been taken, all of these things will be decided once the Comprehensive Spending Review is completed, but there will be significant cuts on the capital spending side in the Budget," Mr Noonan said.

His colleague and the line minister in charge, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, also insisted last week that no final decision had been made, but there was a growing acceptance at senior government level that Metro North would not proceed.

"Clearly there is no hope of this thing going ahead. Just watch this space, the review will come out and Metro North will be gone. We simply can't afford it and we don't need it. They will find another way to link the airport by rail, either by Luas or by Dart," said a senior government source.

"No final decision will be made until the National Development Plan is published in September. All the projects on the table have a lot of merit but the key issue will be affordability," Mr Varadkar told the Sunday Independent.

In recent weeks, the Government has sought a cost outline from Irish Rail for a link-up to the airport by Dart.

It has also emerged that construction of a new Dart line to Dublin Airport will cost just €200m, less than a tenth of the cost of Metro North.

Irish Rail has told Mr Varadkar that the cost of building the 6.5-km Dart spur from Clongriffin to the airport would be significantly lower than expected because of falling land prices and lower construction costs. The new line could be operational within four years.

The lower cost and rapid delivery of a high-speed rail link from the airport to the city means the project is more likely to be approved by the Government.

"Initial indications are that the cost of the 6.5-km rail link from the airport to Clongriffin, which would provide direct Dart services between the airport and the city centre, will come in significantly lower than previously estimated, in the region of €200m in total."

Up to 2,000 jobs will be created if the project is approved.

Sunday Independent

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