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Donohoe to bring ambitious transport plan for capital to Cabinet by summer

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Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Frank McGrath

Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Frank McGrath

Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Frank McGrath

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe is to bring ambitious plans to develop new bus, rail and Luas links to connect Dublin city with the airport and Swords to Cabinet by the summer.

The plans are part of a drive by Mr Donohoe to see capital spending on transport projects more than treble, from €500m a year to €1.8bn, which he said would simply get it back up to historical, long-term average levels.

"There has been a valuation process under way in relation to a number of transport options for the north side of the city," he said. "We will look at a new Luas line. The plan would look at a new hard-rail network, new redesigned metro, or maybe a combination of those and BRT, which is a higher capacity bus system on its own road network," said Mr Donohoe, who is a Dublin Central TD.

With some suggestions that the costly Metro North is effectively dead, Mr Donohoe confirmed that a reduced and revised version with fewer stations is still on the table.

"One of the options is a redesigned metro, and optimised metro, fewer stations," he said.

Speaking exclusively to the Irish Independent, Mr Donohoe said he is finalising details of the plan, which includes provision for the controversial Bus Rapid Transit or 'bendy buses'.

Under the plan, the long, single decker buses would run in 'highly segregated' bus lanes away from other traffic at high frequency.

Those in favour of them say they are more cost-effective than light rail, while opponents criticise the need to dig up existing roads to facilitate their usage.

But he stated clearly that he intends putting the plans before his Cabinet colleagues for approval before ministers depart on their holidays in the summer.

"What I will take to government for recommendation is a new public transport plan for Dublin, with particular focus for the north side of our city. Before the summer, I want to be in a position to come back to government with a recommendation," he added.

He said the main priority was to develop the links between the city centre and the airport and the Swords area, which he said was set to expand significantly in the decade ahead.

"Particularly for Dublin Airport and Swords, for those areas, city centre access is essential for the development of our city," he said.

"If you look at the amount of brownfield and greenfield in that area, the potential is amazing," he said.

In a warning to his Cabinet colleagues and in a pitch for the funds he says he needs, Mr Donohoe said that if we didn't put the plans in place, we will repeat the mistakes of the past on an even larger level.

He said delivery of this ambitious transport plan was eight to 10 years away but to deliver it we needed to start now.

"We don't have the foundations for the high capacity public transport system our country will need. I want to leave behind me in this role, clarity on this issue," he added.

About the funding, Mr Donohoe said: "Exchequer allocation for capital investment fell from €3bn in 2008, or 1.64pc of GDP. That fell to €855m in 2013, which was .52pc."

"To get it back up to 1.13pc of GDP, a historic long-term average, it would need to be €1.8bn," he added.

Irish Independent