Cost of Dublin Metrolink project must not exceed €9.5bn – PAC

by Rachel Cunningham
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Rachel Cunningham

The Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) is concerned at the wide range of cost estimates for the proposed Metrolink project in Dublin and has called on State agencies involved to ensure that the cost does not exceed €9.5 billion. 

In its report published this week on the Examination of the 2019 and 2020 Appropriation Accounts for Vote 31 – Transport, the 2020 Financial Statements for the National Transport Authority, and the 2020 Financial Statements for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, PAC makes recommendations on issues which were discussed with the Department of Transport, National Transport Authority (NTA) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in a series of meetings in 2021 and 2022.

The Committee said it will actively monitor the value-for-money achieved from an estimated €70 billion worth of transport projects in the National Development Plan 2021-2030 (NDP) and the NTA’s Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035, including Metrolink.

PAC said: “The most likely cost for the construction of the Metrolink system was estimated at €9.5 billion by the Department in April 2023, with the most credible capital cost ranging from €7.16 billion to €12.25 billion, although some estimates for the project allow for a cost as high as €21.5 billion. 

“The Committee is concerned at the range of estimates and expresses its wish that the cost of the project does not exceed €9.5 billion, particularly in light of other public infrastructure projects such as the National Children’s Hospital, which is projected to be completed significantly over-budget.” 

Cathaoirleach of PAC,  Brian Stanley TD, said: “The need for a Metro system for Dublin was first proposed in the Platform for Change strategy published in 2000 and was due to be in operation by 2010. Planning permission for the Metro North line was granted in 2011 but was later suspended by the then Government due to the economic downturn. 

“A new Metro North project was announced by the NTA in September 2015, with services due to commence in 2026. Metrolink succeeded that project and according to correspondence from the Department in April 2023, Metrolink services are currently projected to commence in 2034. The Committee is frustrated at how long it has taken from the initial proposal for a metro system in Dublin, to the most recent date for completion. According to that timeline, Metrolink will be delivered 23 years after planning permission was granted to the original Metro North project and 34 years after it was first proposed in Platform for Change.” 

PAC also noted that approximately €300 million has been spent up to the end of March 2023 on Metrolink, and the abandoned Metro North and the Metro West projects. Despite this significant investment, physical construction has yet to begin on a metro system for the Greater Dublin Area.

The Committee said the importance of Metrolink is underlined in the updated business case for the project, published in July 2022. Alongside benefits for public transport users, road users, the economy, and the environment, Metrolink’s most likely benefit to cost ratio is estimated at 1.4, with a potential range from 1.1 to 2. The Committee also warned about the potential cost of further delays to the Metrolink project.

Deputy Stanley said: “It is imperative for the final cost, amongst other reasons, that Metrolink is completed on time, as it has been estimated that each year of delay would add additional costs of between €100 million and €300 million, in addition to delaying the economic and social benefits associated with Metrolink.”

PAC recommends that the Department of Transport provides it with a report on Metrolink by September 2023 which includes an updated expenditure breakdown on the project to date and the most up-to-date cost estimate, as well as an updated timeline with milestones missed or achieved.

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