Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Questions (50)

Robert Troy


50. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the MetroLink project with particular regard to the cost of the revised route. [21998/19]

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Oral answers (3 contributions) (Question to Transport)

As the Deputy is aware, the National Transport Authority, NTA, and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, have statutory responsibilities to develop and deliver MetroLink. In March, the NTA and TII launched a public consultation on the preferred route and that consultation period ended yesterday. This was developed following the NTA's and TII's reflection on the many responses to the earlier consultation they had held last year on the then emerging preferred route, a public consultation which gave rise to much public commentary, particularly regarding a number of specific areas across the city. The NTA's and TII's consideration of this second consultation period on the preferred route will inform the ongoing development of the preliminary design for the project and allow it move on to the next stage.

An important part of that next stage is the development of what is known as a detailed business case. The issue of cost estimation will form a key part of the development of the business case. In developing that business case, the TII is working with leading international experts in the field of cost estimation for mega-projects such as MetroLink. This work will form part of the business case for the project. The business case developed by the TII will be reviewed by the NTA prior to submission to my Department for consideration in line with the requirements of the public spending code. My Department will ensure robust and rigorous analysis and challenge of the business case. Its consideration of the business case will inform the memorandum I will then bring to the Government for its approval. Subject to the approval of the Government, TII will proceed to the planning process and apply to An Bord Pleanála for a railway order. This application is expected to happen during the second quarter of 2020.

Let me be clear. The development of the business case and the costs underpinning the actual construction of a project like this are subject to ongoing refinement throughout these preparatory stages. Conditions might be imposed during planning that result in cost adjustments, for example, and ultimately costs will be further developed during the procurement process. Further Government decision points will be required in this project's life cycle. At each of those points careful consideration will be given to the ongoing value for money and benefit of the project.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

MetroLink is a mega-project. It is one which we all have views on. I want to reassure the Deputy that, as Minister, I have two key priorities here: delivering an improved public transport system to serve the needs of the public now and into the future; and ensuring efficient and effective expenditure of taxpayers' money. The issue of overall cost is a major factor in any transformative project like this one and it is important that we allow due deliberation as required under the public spending code.

Will the Minister outline the decision-making process that preceded the decision to effectively shelve the southern portion of MetroLink? How much will the new route cost per kilometre compared with the old route? Does the Minister believe it to be the case, and does he agree with the Taoiseach, that the new, revised and shorter metro route will probably be €2 billion more than what was originally anticipated?

The NTA took the decision. The authority made a recommendation on this decision that was certainly approved of by the Department and me. Deputy Troy asked about the issue of the costs. I have already said in my reply that there has to be a business case put forward. It would be foolish of me to anticipate the result of that business case.