The Irish government today announced that it will continue with construction of Metro North, all be it a scaled back lower cost version of the project. Commentators have criticised plans to construct a 4.5 Billion underground railway system in light of the nations dire financial situation. The Department for Transport disagrees saying the Metro is of vital importance to the nation and is a matter close to the hearts of many government ministers. Instead the Department has announced a 3 point plan which it hopes will reduce the cost of constructing the Metro.
- It has been estimated by government experts that 97% of passengers on the Metro will simply wish to travel from the city center area out to the airport and in some cases back again. The extension of the Metro to Swords would not be economical for the remaining 3%. Therefore the length of the Metro will be shortened, running from beneath St Stephens Green directly to the Airport where it will terminate. This should also greatly speed journey times from the city center to the airport with trains able to make the trip in far less time than large groups of people travelling on foot or by car at times when large numbers of people may have gathered in and around the city center especially the Kildare St and Upper Merrion Street areas.
- The number of stations will be cut drastically. The stations, especially underground ones were proving to be a larger than expected burden on the construction costs.
The Department explained that the new locations were chosen after consultation with the current occupants of the buildings who agreed that easy, safe and secure access to the Metro would far out weigh any temporary disruption to their offices during construction. There will be one station on the south side of Dublin under St Stephens Green with additional underground access points added from several locations including 80, 94 and 51 St Stephen's Green, Agriculture House, Leinster House and Number 23 on Kildare St and Government Buildings on Upper Merrion Street.
On the North Side there will be 5 stations, Parnell Square, Store Street, Custom House, Marlborough Street and the airport itself. In the airport costs and disruption to the public will be minimised by moving the new station to beneath a site currently occupied by a private hanger which is already owned by the Government and currently houses the government jet and several helicopters.
- A back to work scheme will be introduced where workers recently laid off will be given work on the construction of the tunnels and stations as part of a retraining and reskilling program. The manual construction of the tunnels is seen as a far cheaper option than using complex tunnel boring machinery such as the large automated drills used in the construction of the Port Tunnel. Costs will be further reduced by classing the workers as third level students. The whole retraining program will be designated as a further education institute and will provide these student workers with invaluable skills which will be in high demand in post recession Europe. Fees and new third level charges will of course be applied where appropriate but a government loan scheme will be introduced and the workers will be allowed to pay these loans back to the government over a period of 10 years at favourable rates of interest.
All people who have applied for unemployment benefit since the start of 2009 will be entered into a draw for the retraining and will have their names randomly selected on a weekly basis as places come available in the institute. The first batch of students will be expected to report to the construction site no later than September of 2009 for orientation and physical assessment. Those living outside the capital will be provided with accommodation in specially constructed government facilities in The Curragh army camp. The retraining programs will run for between 1 and 2 years during which the government expects to go through between 70,000 and 100,000 workers.
Construction of the metro should begin later this year and be complete within 2 years from today April 1st 2009. It is expected that it should be open to the general public shortly after the next election or the resignation of the Government.