herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

'Publish all the reports into the Metro North project', expert urges

Leo Varadkar at the launch of Project Ireland 2040
Leo Varadkar at the launch of Project Ireland 2040

A leading business academic has criticised the Government for failing to publish cost-benefit analyses for the three feasibility studies conducted on Metro North - and suggested the Government was only interested in supporting the study that endorsed the plan.

Professor Edgar Morgenroth, from the Business School at Dublin City University, said "there were three reports altogether" and the Government hasn't published the cost-benefit analyses of any of them.

"If it was so wonderful a project why are they not publishing the cost-benefit analysis?" he asked.

The Dublin Metro North underground plan, which has been around for over a decade, was revised and put front and centre of the Government's National Development Plan, which was published last Friday.

Renamed the 'Metro Link' it aims to deliver a direct rail service from the city to Dublin Airport, incorporating southside suburbs.

Doubt

But Prof Morgenroth has cast doubt over the viability of the plan. He questions whether the population density exists for the underground link to make economic sense.

"The really key issue is do you have enough people to make it work," he told the Herald.

"If Fingal North can get the densities in and around the line then it is worthwhile", he said before pointing out that the State is not building new homes near the proposed lines.

"Part of that line will go through places where there is literally nothing but fields."

"We don't ever see the evidence. I happen to know there were three reports conducted."

The first one showed Metro North not having "benefits exceeding the costs", he said.

"Wouldn't it be better to have confidence in this project," he said. His comments come as Fianna Fail TDs insist they are "not panicking" over poor opinion poll ratings for their party.

Support for Fine Gael has risen six points and the party - which has been in power for seven years - is now on 36pc.

According to the latest Sunday Independent/Kantar Millward Brown opinion poll, Fianna Fail has dropped one point and is at 28pc.

"We are up against the might of the Government strategic communications department," said one front-bench TD who asked not to be named.

"We shouldn't panic - although there are people on the front bench who aren't lifting their role," they said.

Most Fianna Fail TDs claim not to blame party leader Micheal Martin for the decline in support. Mr Martin's popularity was up three points to 48pc.

However, satisfaction with Leo Varadkar has soared 10 points ahead to 58pc - nine points higher than his initial rating after he became Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael.

There is a sense of deflation within Fianna Fail that efforts to call out the Government over inconsistencies in key areas like housing and health are not puncturing Fine Gael support.

"I didn't bother reading inside the paper, I just saw the front page and said 'f*** that'," said another TD.

Fianna Fail's poll ratings were similarly low during the last leg of the election in 2011, yet the party came very close to Fine Gael in the end.

With one week to go, a Red C poll predicted it would get 31 seats, but in the end it took 44.

Senior figures like Barry Cowen say Fianna Fail is "in touch" with the public.

"They're too busy spinning while we're trying to deal with vulture funds sales, rent, people who can't buy a house," he said.

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