Paschal Donohoe: 'We must catch up with other EU capitals and offer a direct rail link to the airport'
With unemployment falling and the economy growing at the fastest rate in Europe, road-traffic congestion is again becoming an issue.
While we are still at a delicate stage in our recovery, now is the time to plan for the future.
Yesterday, I announced a project that will have a significant impact on Dublin transport in the future: a transport link from the city centre to Dublin Airport and on to Swords.
New Metro North, a 16.5km light rail line that will connect St Stephen's Green to Swords via the airport, was announced as part of the Capital Plan, 2016-2022.
In Census 2011, the Fingal area recorded close to four times the population growth rate of Dublin city and almost double that of the other Dublin counties. A significant amount of our future population growth is expected to take place there, which makes the delivery of a longer-term transport solution for the region an absolutely priority.
New Metro North will have the capacity to carry over 30 million passengers a year and will provide trams every two minutes in each direction. Construction of it is expected to commence in 2021 with a view to delivering the project by 2026-27. Some 3,500 jobs will be generated during the construction phase.
It will serve the Mater, Temple Street and the Rotunda hospitals, as well as DCU, Trinity College and St Patrick's College. It will allow people to travel from O'Connell Street to the airport in 19 minutes and to Swords Estuary in 30 minutes.
We are one of very few capital cities in Europe that still does not offer a direct rail link to its airport. We must, and we will, rectify that.
While work is progressing on New Metro North, a number of other projects in the plan will also be taking place. Provision is being made for an extension of the Dart line to Balbriggan, which will be in place by 2022, and progress will be made on expanding Dart services further to Maynooth and Hazelhatch.
Funds are also being provided for the completion of Luas Cross City - which will add 10 million additional journeys each year to our public transport network - and the opening of the Phoenix Park Tunnel, giving commuters on the Kildare-to-Dublin Heuston line the option of direct trains to Connolly, Tara Street, Pearse and Grand Canal Dock from 2016.
Equally important, however, is the maintenance and renewal of what we already have. Fleets will be replaced on our bus and Luas services. Quality Bus Corridors on core bus routes will be upgraded and Leap and real-time passenger information services will also be enhanced. Funding is also being provided for cycle lanes.
We must invest in transport to ensure that our recovery is sustainable and real. This will allow our city and county to develop into the years ahead and our people to go about their daily business in a more efficient and, hopefully, stress-free way.
Pascal Donohoe is Minister for Transport