Metrolink is the government’s proposal to build an underground high-speed metro to cross the capital city. High speed tram links have been operating in cities major cities for the past century. The Underground in London has been operational since 1863, the Métro in Paris since 1900 and the Subway in New York since 1904. With Dublin frequently named as one of the world’s emerging ‘tech hubs’, it is surprising that this kind of infrastructure doesn’t already exist. The ambitious proposal outlined by Transport Infrastructure Ireland describes the metro as a “high-capacity, high-frequency rail line”. The metro will act as link between all modes of transport currently running in Dublin; the Irish Rail train lines, Dublin Bus, Luas and Dart services.
The proposed route for Metrolink stretches from Swords to Charlemont. The metro line would begin in Swords and continue travelling above ground to Dublin Airport. From there, the track would go underground, below the airport, to re-emerge in Dairdstown. Linking the metro to the M50, this would be a major train depot, with provision for it to become a train station in future. Once again above ground, upon reaching Ballymun the metro would again go underground to its terminal stop in Charlemont. The ‘Emerging Preferred Route’ would then see the Metrolink join with the current Luas Green Line and continue as far as Sandyford.
A predominant feature of the planned metro will be the connection to Dublin Airport. The Dublin Airport catchment area is beginning to become an industrial hub. An example of this is the highly advertised ‘Dublin Airport Central’, a major new office development. Recent reports have stated that investment in the Dublin Airport hub could create as many as 34,000 new jobs. Situated in the suburbs and serving the capital, and a high-speed metro line linking the city to the airport would further increase interest and investment in this area.
Currently, most public transport routes to the country’s main airport use the M50 ring-road, infamous for its arduous congestion. The metro will provide a painless and speedy route to the airport, guaranteeing passengers a mere twenty minute journey from the city centre. Other key locations at which the metro would stop will include Trinity College Dublin, The Rotunda, The Mater Hospital and Dublin City University.
Plans for Metrolink have once again become controversial when it was recently announced that the metro line will be terminating in Charlemont. The original plan outlined that the part of the Luas extending from Charlemont to Sandyford would be upgraded to a high-speed tram also. The National Transport Authority (NTA) outlined that the tunnel will be constructed to allow an extension of the line, however this expansion would be due to “occur at an appropriate time in the future… perhaps twenty years or so.” This is allegedly as a direct result of lobbying by several senior politicians, particularly the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. As reported on Morning Ireland on 26th March, the Metrolink will not extend beyond Charlemont as Minister Murphy “intervened” saying that he “really didn’t want that disruption in the Ranelagh area” as the Dunville Avenue would have to be temporarily closed. The disruption in question would entail an extra kilometre onto the journey between Rathmines and Ranelagh. This would seem relatively minor in comparison to other issues that were raised and dismissed, for example the demolition of the Markievicz leisure centre and block of seventy apartments. It perhaps raises the question as to whether the agenda of powerful politicians should be allowed to impact the greater good of the city.
The current route for the Metrolink would be virtually useless for the students of UCD. Upon reaching Charlemont, students would either have to then cycle, or transfer onto a bus route or Luas line to bring them closer to the college. The closest Luas stop to the University is in Windy Arbour and is approximately a forty minute walk to the Newman Building. Alternatively, the student or faculty member could choose to cycle. Going via Donnybrook, this is predicted to take sixteen minutes, however the problem then emerges as to where to leave your bicycle at night. Finally, you could choose to take a bus route. If you were aiming to be at a lecture at nine, the student would have to walk to Leeson Street, flag down a bus at 8.15am and ride the bus for a further half hour. When questioned by Eamonn Ryan, leader of the Green Party, as to why the Metrolink won’t be connecting to University College Dublin the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar responded that although “UCD… might make sense...I would not like that to hold up the project”.
With both Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University benefiting from a link to the proposed metro, the question arises as to why University College Dublin here in Belfield was dismissed as a possible location for the metro route? Home to approximately 30,000 students, UCD has the same population as Navan. This means that the population equivalent to one of the largest towns in Ireland travels to and from this university every day. Many students already are forced to travel long distances every day to attend classes, both due to where they live and the absence of affordable accommodation in the Belfield area. If the Metrolink was to connect to the university it would not only benefit students with long commutes but also allow students to live further from the college, in more affordable areas.
With plans for Metrolink still very much up for discussion, perhaps now is the time to enact change. It is important to make the voice of the UCD student heard and create a transport infrastructure which benefits as much of the capital city as possible. As reported on Morning Ireland on 26th March, the Metrolink will be Ireland’s most expensive infrastructure project. Surely it should be done once, and done right; whatever that may be. Further details on the proposed Metrolink can be found at; https://www.metrolink.ie/.