By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The Irish government has given the go-ahead for the first phase of a major Metro rail system for Dublin that is expected to cost in the region of euros 7.2 billion when completed.
There will be 70 kilometers of rail line, with 12 to 14 kilometers underground.
It will be the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the State and is expected to carry more than 200 million passengers a year, linking up the new towns and suburbs with the city center.
By 2007, the first phase will be operating, linking the city with the airport and the DART suburban rail and the LUAS light railway system that is currently being developed.
Public Enterprise Minister Mary O’Rourke said a new Rail Procurement Agency is to seek “expressions of interest” from companies or consortia worldwide who want to bid to design, build, operate and finance the new system in partnership with the State.
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Apart from linking with the airport, Phase One will involve a spur to Blanchardstown and an extension to Shanganagh, near Bray on the southside of the city.
Phase Two will extend the Metro to the suburban areas of Clondalkin, Tallaght, Citywest and Swords. It is hoped to have the system finished by 2016.
“The public-private partnership approach allows us to combine the traditional strengths of the public sector with the efficiencies of the private sector,” O’Rourke said.
“It marks the start of a process that will result in a transport system which will last for 100 years or more. Many cities around the world have rapid transit, underground rail systems and now Dublin can be no exception.”
O’Rourke said there is considerable interest in the project from companies around the world.
The booming economy in recent years has led to huge increases in car sales. As a result, severe traffic congestion is clogging up the city and causing lengthy delays.
Peak-hour trips in the city grew by 78,000, or 45 percent, between 1991 and 1997. Private car commuting accounted for 71,000 of those trips.
By 2016, total peak-hour trips are forecast to be 488,000, a 95 percent increase on the 1997 level.
Experts say that without the development of the LUAS and the Metro, growth in automobile use would reduce peak-hour speeds on radial roads to 15 miles per hour, compared with 30 mph in 1997 and 40 in ’91.