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Dublin Metro hearings resume after 15 years as first trains may run by mid-2030s

More than 120 parties to speak at planning meetings on long-delayed underground line including affected residents and campaign groups

It is 15 years since An Bord Pleanála last opened a planning hearing into a metro rail line for Dublin, 14 years since it granted permission for Metro North, 13 years since the Government shelved it, nine years since it announced it was back on track, five years since the preferred route was confirmed, and a year and a half since Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) lodged its application for the line.

On Monday morning, a new An Bord Pleanála metro hearing will open, and Dubliners and visitors may now have to wait just a little more than a decade for the first underground train to chug down the line.

The €9.5 billion Metrolink would run from north of Swords to Dublin Airport, then on to Ballymun, Glasnevin, O’Connell Street and St Stephen’s Green before terminating at Charlemont Street, with 16 stations in all.

The planning hearing is scheduled to last about six weeks, but will undoubtedly overrun. More than 120 of the 318 parties who made submissions on the application intend to address the hearing. These include residents and businesses affected by the route, politicians, campaign groups, heritage bodies and State agencies.


TII notes more than half of those submissions “expressed support for the proposed project”, particularly around the northern end of the line, but that support is unlikely to be reflected at the hearing, with the majority of those scheduled to speak anxious to have their objections to, or issues with, the line resolved.

This long-anticipated State project is likely to face its strongest challenge from, perhaps surprisingly, the State, in the form of the Office of Public Works (OPW).

Metrolink Dublin Olivia Kelly feature

The OPW made 28 separate submissions in relation to State properties. In most cases it was seeking assurances or mitigation measures to protect buildings during construction works. However, in relation to one State asset, no amount of mitigation was going to cut it. TII’s plans for the St Stephen’s Green Station will “permanently damage one of Ireland’s favourite parks” the OPW says. The station will be on the east side of St Stephen’s Green, lying partly under the boundary of the park.

It will involve permanent changes to this part of the park, including the removal of railings, the relocation of statues, the construction of a station entrance, and the felling of 64 trees. This “risks fundamentally altering the special character of the Green and the changes will be visible for generations to come,” OPW says.

TII says it must balance these concerns against a metro that will “serve Dublin for many years to come”. The permanent footprint “is very minor and it is considered that it will not permanently damage the heritage value of the park” it says.

One stop earlier on the line TII will meet another difficult issue, with people to lose their homes if the “preferred route” goes ahead. College Gate, a block of 70 apartments, and eight city council homes on Townsend Street are designated for demolition for the Tara Street station. While TII will have to compensate the apartment owners, and the council will relocate its tenants, many residents do not want to leave their homes and are seeking the alignment of the line to be reconsidered.

TII says the demolitions are “regrettably” necessary. It did consider 11 other station options and different alignments, but says this was the best option in terms of impact on city traffic and utilities during construction. It was also safer and cheaper, it says.

On the border of Phibsborough and Glasnevin another demolition is planned, but this time it is livelihoods that will be lost. The 200-year-old Brian Boru pub, which has been in the Hedigan family since 1906, will be levelled for the Glasnevin Station. The pub, close to Cross Guns Bridge over the Royal Canal makes an appearance in James Joyce’s Ulysses and is “noted for its heritage and connection to the local area” the owners say.

The family did themselves submit planning applications for the demolition of the pub and its replacement with a new pub and apartments in the noughties, but were refused due to “architectural and streetscape value, as well as literary associations.” TII say this is a “significant and regrettable impact” but one “necessary to accommodate the construction of Glasnevin Station”.

Disturbance during construction and the possible impacts on protected structures has been raised by several institutions, including Trinity College, and the Mater and Rotunda hospitals. Others are objecting to the treatment of historic buildings on O’Connell Street, such as the old Carlton Cinema, which will be demolished with only its facade remaining.

More than a quarter of all submissions relate to the end of the line, the Charlemont stop, which has caused controversy since the Government decided in 2019 the metro should terminate here instead of running to Sandyford. Here TII faces opposition from those who want the line to end in the city, to give a better range of route options for its future extension, as well as residents in the immediate Charlemont and wider Ranelagh area who are not happy about the disruption construction will cause, particularly to Dartmouth Square.

TII notes this terminus is Government policy, but that is unlikely to dissuade vigorous argument against the stop.

Once the hearings end the board will take some time to issue its decision. Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan hopes this will be by the end of this year, others predict early next year. That’s not a green light however.

TII then has to seek tenders for construction, which may push the cost of the line beyond the current €9.5 billion target, before formulating a final business case which it will submit to the next Government for approval.

If successful, the first trains could be on track in the mid-2030s.

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