Seanad Éireann - Volume 184 - 26 October, 2006

Public Transport.

  Mr. Morrissey: I thank the Minister of State for taking this matter, which relates to public transport integration. I wholeheartedly welcome last week’s announcement of metro north, which will enhance the lives of the people of Swords and adjoining areas. If commuters who currently use the bus service transfer to the metro when it is completed in a few years, they will save 390 hours commuting per annum, which is the equivalent of ten weeks travel. Questions were raised about the cost of the new line last week but I prefer to focus on the benefits it will bring for hard pressed commuters. They will have ten weeks per annum to put to better use with their families or in leisure pursuits.

However, Irish Rail plans to build an interconnector between Heuston and Connolly Stations while one short year after the opening of the two Luas lines, it is planned to connect them. The proposed metro will terminate on a greenfield site outside Swords with a massive park and ride facility but an extension could be built to Donabate, which is only 3 km away, that would meet the northern line and provide access to the towns such as Lusk, Rush, Skerries and Balbriggan. This would increase the patronage on the line, which is what the metro will need to pay for itself. Patronage can be increased by integrating public transport. Access would be opened to all of north Dublin, including Swords, Dublin [1966]Airport, Dublin City University, the Mater Hospital and the new children’s hospital. For example, currently people from north Dublin who wish to travel to the airport via public transport must take the DART to Howth Junction before travelling back to the airport. The public utilities I have listed would be accessible to everybody in north Dublin if a line three kilometres long was built between Swords and Donabate. It must be ensured the time savings achieved by everybody using the metro from Swords will be provided to people throughout north Dublin.

A park and ride facility will be provided so that people in the hinterland of Swords can drive to the metro station but we should think outside the box. While the new metro line will be fantastic, the service could be improved by linking it with existing modes of transport. I contacted the RPA about this issue and the officials correctly said their remit was defined by the proposals in Transport 21. That is why we must make representations to the Minister for Transport to establish how an extension could be provided. The Luas lines will be extended to Cherrywood, Citywest and the city centre. There will also be a Luas connection through the city centre. Iarnród Éireann has put forward a cogent case for building an interconnector, which is also included in Transport 21. While all those developments are about integration, the metro is not to be integrated with the suburban railway line for a stretch of 3 km. Accordingly, I ask the Minister of State to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Transport.

  Mr. B. Lenihan: I reply to this matter on behalf of the Minister for Transport. I will certainly bring Senator Morrissey’s eloquent plea for Donabate to the Minister’s attention, but I must outline his views on the matter.

The Senator is well aware that Transport 21 includes the provision of a metro line from the city centre to Swords via Dublin Airport and the timeline for the completion of this metro line is 2012. This does not include an extension to Donabate, nor was such a link envisaged in the strategy, A Platform for Change, published by the Dublin Transportation Office.

It is envisaged that the metro north will terminate at Lissenhall, north of Swords. As Senator Morrissey outlined, a major park and ride side is planned at this terminus. This will benefit people from Donabate, Portrane and other areas of north Dublin and people from counties Meath and Louth travelling to the airport or onwards to the city centre. It will be possible to park at the terminus and take the metro to the airport or onwards to the city centre. The park and ride facility will also include a bus interchange. The metro journey time from the terminus to the airport will be under ten minutes and will be under [1967]half an hour to the terminus at St. Stephen’s Green.

A metro line north of the proposed terminus at Lissenhall is unlikely to be sustainable without the land being developed in a manner conducive to a metro, that is, high-density residential and commercial development. The land between Swords and Donabate is designated as a green belt area in the Fingal county development plan and, thus, is unlikely to be developed. However, the metro north project will be designed to facilitate its further extension should the circumstances, especially land use policy, change in the future. Therefore, while this indicates there is a stop in regard to the Senator’s request, it is not entirely a full stop. The configuration of the terminus at Lissenhall will facilitate a further extension if a demonstrated need for that develops in time.

The population of Donabate is served by suburban rail. This service will be improved under Transport 21 with the construction of the interconnector tunnel through the Dublin city centre and with the associated electrification of the northern line, which will become a DART line running from Balbriggan to Kildare. This will enhance the service from Donabate and surrounding areas as the interconnector will provide extra capacity, that is, it will be possible for more trains to pass through the city centre than at present. As electrical rolling stock can accelerate faster, there will also be the possibility of reduced journey times and increased frequency of service for commuters.

The Balbriggan to Kildare DART line will have interchanges with the second DART line, which will run from Maynooth and Dunboyne to Greystones, at Pearse Street Station, the Luas red line at the docklands and Luas and metro services at St. Stephen’s Green. It will also have an interchange with mainline rail services at Heuston Station. The completion date for these projects is 2015. In the meantime, work will commence in 2007 on the resignalling of the rail network in the city centre, which will mean a 33% increase in rail capacity within the city centre, which should facilitate some suburban rail service improvements.