As the Deputy will be aware, the National Transport Authority, NTA, published the MetroLink preferred route for public consultation on Tuesday, 26 March.
This reflects the NTA's and Transport Infrastructure Ireland's consideration of issues raised in the consultation period held last year on what was known as the "Emerging Preferred Route".
The Deputy has welcomed the publication of the new route and the fact that it addresses the majority of issues raised during last year's consultation period.
The new preferred route proposes a number of changes to the route as published last year and I hope people will take the time to consider the rationale behind those changes and engage with the public consultation process.
Of course, a key imperative in the MetroLink project has always been to deliver a new north-south cross city link and deal with the capacity issues on the Luas green line. The big change in the preferred route is the method by which the NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, propose to deal with those issues.
The NTA-TII proposal is now to move forward immediately on two fronts: developing MetroLink from Charlemont to Swords and also completing the green line capacity enhancement project already under way. They now propose to defer the third element of the previous proposal, which is to tie-in the metro with the existing Luas green line and extend metro services southward along that line.
The Luas green line expansion programme, which is already under way, will see extended trams begin to arrive this year and will by 2021 see all 26 trams extended to 55 m and also introduce eight additional trams and increase capacity by approximately 37%.
It is also proposed incrementally to increase capacity further on the green line over the medium term so that it can handle around 11,000 passengers per direction per hour, which is an increase of approximately 70% from today. Then in the longer term, perhaps 20 years from today, the tunnelling work proposed to be completed now as part of MetroLink will facilitate a later tie-in with the green line.
I welcome the level and depth of public engagement with the project so far and commend the NTA and TII for the proactive way in which they have engaged with communities and the public at large. There is a series of further public information sessions planned for this round of public consultation, as well as a wealth of information published on the MetroLink website. I recognise also that there are still issues which require consideration and consultation with different groups and NTA-TIl are committed to doing just that.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In so-called "megaprojects" like this, the importance of this period of front-end planning is well recognised internationally as being crucial to a project's overall success. I also think it important that we approach projects such as this in as open and transparent a manner as possible in order to deal with some of the misinformation and confusion which can arise.
In terms of timelines, this phase of consultation will end on 21 May and the NTA-TII will then finalise its business case for submission to my Department and ultimately the sanction of Government. They expect to apply for a railway order in Q2 next year and then, subject to planning, to move forward with construction during 2021.