herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

City set for building bonanza as billions to be spent on plan

Tánaiste Simon Coveney with James Wall at the Cabinet meeting and launch of Project Ireland 2040 at IT Sligo.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney with James Wall at the Cabinet meeting and launch of Project Ireland 2040 at IT Sligo.

Dublin is to benefit from billions of euro in investment as part of a massive 20-year project to develop transport links, hospitals, infrastructure and services.

The Government's new €116bn National Development Plan promised Dublin four new Luas lines and boosted Dart and bus services, the regeneration of large parts of the city and new housing projects.

It highlighted key challenges, including addressing affordability and urban amenities within the city.

Urban growth means Dublin is expected to expand substantially by 2040.

The document, launched after a special Cabinet meeting in Sligo yesterday, predicts the capital's population will increase by up to 293,000 in the next 22 years.

It warned Dublin needs to become greener and a more environmentally sustainable city in line with international competitors.

Plans include regenerating and developing underused lands within the canals and M50, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying "Dublin needs to grow up, not out".

It comes as part of a €2bn urban regeneration fund which is being allocated for the country's five main cities.

The capital will benefit from spending on transport initiatives, hospitals, schools and new water schemes, the creation of new public spaces and the introduction of environmental initiatives.

Sites

Four new Luas lines developed over the next decade will serve Bray, Finglas, Lucan and Poolbeg. New park and ride sites will be built on the outskirts of the city.

Around €1bn is set aside for the Bus Connects project, while the Metro is to finally get the green light.

It will bring passengers from the city centre to Dublin Airport and on to Swords and stretch south of the city, linking up with Dart and Luas services.

The plan included the new children's hospital and the new maternity hospital at the St Vincent's site.

It also committed to the completion of a second runway at Dublin Airport.

In the region of €14bn has been set aside for health spending. This included initiatives aimed specifically at resolving the trolley and waiting list problems.

Plans are also in place for the construction of 500,000 new homes nationwide by 2040.

Mr Varadkar admitted many of the individual schemes flagged in the document were already in the public domain but said now was the time to make them a reality.

"Metro North was postponed because it had to be, by me as Transport Minister, because of the fact we were in a financial crisis.

"We're now out of that financial crisis and in a position to invest again. That allows us to turn back on projects that had been stalled, including Metro," he said.

Asked by the Herald how the Government intends to proceed with a multi-billion investment plan at the same time as the country is experiencing a shortage of construction workers, Mr Varadkar pointed towards migration.

He said the post-crash lack of trades people is "a potential constraint on the ability to build new houses or the ability to invest in new infrastructure".

"One of the ways that we were able to expand our construction [workforce] so successfully back in the day when we were building 80,000 houses a year was through migration - having construction workers come in from other countries.

"We're going to need that. One of the few upsides of Brexit might be the fact that construction workers who are now welcome in the UK mightn't be able to get in there in a few years' time. That makes us more attractive," he said.

The Peter McVerry Trust has broadly welcomed the Government's plans to build more than half a million new homes by 2040.

Impact

"This plan provides a long-term vision to invest in housing and other critical areas such as education which ultimately will have a positive impact on efforts to tackle homelessness. It's important that within the 550,000 homes to be provided that the appropriate amount of social and affordable homes be provided," Pat Doyle, the homeless charity's chief executive, said.

Dublin Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Mary Rose Burke, said the plan has the potential to "transform" Ireland while ensuring the country grows in a "structured and sustainable way".

"Dublin's public transport network is currently creaking at the seams," she said.

"The delivery of new Luas lines to places like Bray, Finglas, Poolbeg and Lucan, together with improvements to the bus network, will ensure that Dublin's public transport network rivals that of the best cities in the world.

"If we're serious about getting people out of cars and using public transport, we need to ensure that the public transport offering is compelling.

"In Dublin today, too many people remain cut off from good public transport."

Dublin North-West TD Noel Rock said confirmation of the new Finglas line is "big news for the area".

He added: We now have a commitment to get it started in nine years at the latest.

"I have received a commitment that it will be the first of the Luas extensions to commence."

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