What is the problem with the Metrolink current preferred route?
There is a very serious anomaly in the scope of the current consultation. The NTA is seeking views specifically on the preferred route i.e. the Metrolink underground route from Swords to Charlemont where the underground line will emerge. However, the consultation document also explicitly sets out the NTA decision to continue the Metrolink to include the upgrade of the existing Luas Green Line to Metrolink standard albeit at an ill-defined date in the future i.e. in the period over the next 10-15 years.
It is entirely disingenuous to suggest that the overall preferred route for the Metrolink has changed following NTA consideration of the responses to the 2018 consultation. Introducing a time-lapse (completely in the control of the NTA) does not change the substantive NTA position to ultimately decommission the Luas light rail Green route and introduce a segregated high-speed network in its place.
Are there viable alternatives?
There are much better alternatives including keeping underground; routing towards the south-west of the city – Rathmines, Harold’s Cross, Terenure, Rathfarnham – which is not served by any public rail link; or routing underground through UCD with 32,000 students and onto Sandyford. Luas peak hour capacity – reaching 11,000 per hour over the two decades – can be met by fully implementing 55m trams. If the longer trams prove to be too disruptive in the city centre, some could run to St Stephen’s Green only. In addition, there would be reduced Luas usage with an alternative Metro southside underground route. The 55 metre trams have a carrying capacity of 379 passengers: if the all trams are 55 metres (6 at present) and run at a two-minute frequency, a capacity of 11,370 passengers per hour is achieved. The current trams run at an average of 4 minutes at peak times, sometimes every two minutes (or less).
How long will the Green Line be closed for?
Rethink Metrolink is concerned to learn from recently published NTA material that the current plan will achieve a reduction of the disruption period from 4 years – as indicated to the Minister for Transport under the earlier NTA proposals – to an optimum 2¾ years facilitated by extending the tunnel beyond Charlemont and foreseeing a future tunnel exit to an upgraded Luas line south of Dunville.
Whatever operational model is chosen in the event of a future Luas upgrade, the various disruption periods that are foreseen by the NTA will have an unacceptable impact on commuters and on general social and economic urban activity. Such disruption levels have already been ruled out by the Minister for Transport.
Rethink Metrolink is firmly of the view that any period of disruption has a disproportionate social and economic cost that has to be factored into the overall Metrolink project cost; this is informed by the experience of traffic and commuter chaos when the service was out of commission for just two days in 2018. This can be avoided by the solution proposed for the northern element of the route which has Metrolink and light-rail services existing on complementary parallel routes.