Wednesday 16 October 2019

Cormac McQuinn: 'FG politicians played part in derailing Government's own NDP plan'


Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Metro Link was heralded as one of the landmark public transport projects when it was included in the Government's €116bn National Development Plan (NDP) as part of the flashy Project Ireland 2040 initiative.

Metro services to south Co Dublin were very much on the accompanying map.

It showed the proposed route running from Swords through the city centre and on to Sandyford through Ranelagh.

It's in that leafy neighbourhood where the most fervent opposition arose. And the planned Metro service to growing communities further south has now been shelved for up to two decades.

Fine Gael politicians played a part in derailing the proposed route that formed part of their Government's own NDP. Opposition from the community in Ranelagh had the backing of Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy and Fine Gael colleague Kate O'Connell. Independent Senator Michael McDowell was another heavyweight local politician who opposed the plan.

There were complaints from residents that the closure of a road would lead to a "Berlin Wall" segregating the community during construction.

An alternative option that was considered could have seen the Luas Green Line closed for up to four years, and was ruled out by Transport Minister Shane Ross as "utterly unacceptable".

There was trouble on the northside as well with outcry that Na Fianna GAA Club would lose the use of three pitches for up to six years during construction.

But the pitches have been saved in the revised plan and the changes haven't led to the loss of a whole section of the planned route.

As it stands, the trains on the city's southside - when they finally arrive in 2027 - will stop at Charlemont Street and passengers will have to transfer to Luas Green Line services to continue on to Sandyford.

National Transport Authority officials have denied the changes to the plans were due to pressure from Government ministers, insisting there was a "technical basis" for the preferred route.

But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar noted in the Dáil that residents of Ranelagh will "very much welcome" the changes. He also said it wouldn't have been viable to close the Luas Green Line for up to four years.

Ultimately, extending the Metro Link farther south may not happen for another two decades but the debate has already begun as to what route it may take.

Mr Varadkar suggested in the Dáil that it could "make sense" for the trains to go through UCD to Sandyford.

His party colleague, Dublin South-West TD Colm Brophy, is already pushing for a service to Firhouse.

Don't expect an end to the politics of Metro Link on Dublin's southside any time soon.

Irish Independent

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