By Kevin Baker on Sun, Jul 15, 2018
The Green Party, particularly their leader Eamon Ryan TD, has been pushing the idea that MetroLink should go south west towards Rathfarmham, instead of upgrading the Luas Green Line. Eamon Ryan represents people of Dublin Bay South who will be affected by the MetroLink proposal so his position is relevant. However, his suggestion of a south west metro at this stage is political interference that threatens the successful and timely delivery of MetroLink.
An extract of the map in Eamon Ryan's submission on MetroLink.
The MetroLink plan should be no surprise
The general outline of the MetroLink plan should be no surprise. A Metro North and Metro South have been in the works for more than fifteen years.
Most importantly, when the National Transport Authority (NTA) prepared the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy 2016-2035 the concept of a north-south metro incorporating the existing Green Line in Dublin was decided. This was an evidence-based decision following detailed transport modelling in the South East Corridor Study.
Eamon Ryan knows there are no metro plans for South West Dublin in the strategy. He, himself, made a detailed submission to the transport strategy public consultation (Submission #148). No part of his submission suggests a south west metro or argues against upgrading the Green Line.
The Green Line needs an upgrade
The Luas Green Line will run out of capacity by 2027. The only option left to upgrading the Green Line is underground running in the city centre. If the Green Line is not upgraded by 2027 passengers will be left behind on platforms. This will be more damaging for stops closer to the city such as Milltown, Cowper, and Beechwood, all of which are in Eamon Ryan's constituency.
MetroLink will connect the Green Line into the Metro North tunnels and double the capacity on the Green Line.
Green Line upgrade is a better investment
A south west metro is a poor investment compared to MetroLink's Green Line upgrade. The metro upgrade is estimated to cost €350M. Given the MetroLink budget of €3-4BN, this is only 10% of the total costs, but lengthens Dublin's first metro line by 45%.
Doing back-of-the-napkin math on Eamon Ryan's rough 'South West Metro' proposal, which conveniently ends shortly after his constituency border, produces a rough cost estimate of €800M. This ignores design and testing costs, and whether a metro is even the right-sized transport solution for the south west corridor.
A south west metro will not reduce pressure on the Luas Green Line enough to matter. This isn't a choice between the Green Line upgrade or a south west metro, but rather between the Green Line upgrade and doing both projects.
The Green Line upgrade will buy a doubling of capacity between Sandyford and the city center, which future-proofs the line out to 2050. It will support new housing developments in Sandyford, Carrickmines and Cherrywood, and it will allow for future expansion of the Luas Green line to Bray. The Green Line upgrade provides a far better return on investment and delivers far greater benefits.
Political interference is unnecessary
Eamon Ryan's submission demonstrates a lack of respect for the hundreds of engineers and professionals working hard on MetroLink. Eamon Ryan is drawing in crayon while the MetroLink team are publishing concept engineering drawings. Even at this early stage there are more than 1,500 pages of detailed engineering reports and 360 concept engineering drawings published on metrolink.ie. It has taken a mammoth amount of work to advance MetroLink this far.
The time to draw in crayon was when the GDA Transport Strategy document was being prepared in 2014. Suggesting a south west metro in 2108 is political interference of the worst kind, as it plays two parts of Dublin against each other. The plans for MetroLink were decided and committed to without challenge from Eamon Ryan. Let's not revisit those evidence-based decisions now.
Challenges of the Green Line Upgrade
There are many challenges to upgrading the Green Line to metro-standard. DublinOnTrack do not want to understate the issues and challenges faced by the communities who live along the line. In May, a local community meeting was held in the Beechwood area. It was well-attended by 300 local residents and a few local politicians, including Eamon Ryan. The residents were concerned with the closure of Dunville Avenue and the bisection of their community.
At the meeting some local residents mentioned they don't want the metro upgrade and that MetroLink should be routed towards South West Dublin instead. This is a classic NIMBY response: 'build it over there instead'.
Many of the issues raised by local residents could have engineering solutions that negate the downsides of the metro upgrade. For example, it looks like Dunville Avenue will not be closed but rather the Metro line will run under the road. Public outcry during the first public consultation phase has forced TII to examine engineering options for keeping Dunville Avenue open. This is necessary political intervention, whereas proposing a south west metro is unnecessary political interference.
A concept engineering drawing for the Dunville Avenue metro underpass.
Constructive feedback is what's needed
At this stage many evidence-based decisions have already been made, such as which transport corridors into Dublin need a metro line. These decisions should not be revisited without robust evidence.
The next MetroLink public consultation round should be used to critique and adjust the finer details of the MetroLink project. This will enable TII to apply for planning permission that realises the enormous benefits of MetroLink while limiting any downsides.
A metro in Dublin has been delayed long enough. Eamon Ryan finished his opinion piece in the Irish Times with: "It would be a shame if we missed this golden opportunity." MetroLink is a golden opportunity. It will dramatically improve public transport in Dublin. This golden opportunity should not be squandered because of political interference.