herald

Thursday 23 October 2014

Lorcan O'Connor: Metro North uncertainty is killing business

We are opposed to Metro North, certainly in its current format, for a number of reasons.

It would cause disruption for 10 years or more, it would destroy tourism in the city centre and we could end up like a lot of cities where there is nothing left.

People are creatures of habit, and once they stop coming into the city, they will not come back.

The city is already being affected by the uncertainty.

On Westmoreland Street where we have a shop, there is only 75pc occupancy and we believe it is down to uncertainty about Metro North. No one wants to invest in a street if people think it will be a building site for 10 years.

We have seen in other cities where they have done this 'cut and cover' -- when you're building an underground, it's like building a 10-storey building underground and you can imagine they have to take everything away.

And then there's the question of how long it would go on for.

They're talking about doing enabling works on O'Connell Street which will involve digging, removing statues and that kind of work. Then they're talking about putting it back for 2016, for the centenary of 1916, and then returning to it.

We would also worry that they would go ahead with the enabling works without Metro North being approved in full.

The location of some of the stations was something we had difficulty with from the start. The plan is for a station on O'Connell Street and another on Westmoreland Street. Wouldn't Marlborough Street, a couple of minutes from O'Connell Street and Hawkins Street, just off Westmoreland Street, be much better?

And how can we afford it?

They're talking now about it costing €2.5bn to €3bn -- it's a huge amount of money for a country that is broke. Where will it come from? Who will lend to these 'partners' on the basis that they'll be paid back by this country?

We keep being told that we need it to service the airport and that it would provide 20/25pc of the building. But the new Dublin Bus service which goes through the tunnel gets into town as fast. And I hear Irish Rail saying that they could also run a connecting service if they got their signals upgraded.

To my mind the only show in town is Luas B which is linking the two Luas lines -- that does make a lot of sense.

The jobs argument is that it will create 20,000 or 25,000 jobs. There are 150,000 employed in the city centre. If you took a 10pc drop because of the disruption -- that's 15,000 gone that we won't get back.

At this stage though, we would just love a decision on Metro North. It looks like they don't want to tell the people in Swords -- but that uncertainty is no good for the city or the people of Swords.

Lorcan O'Connor is a director of Carrolls Gifts and Souvenirs

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