Ladies and Gentlemen,
On 1st November last year we launched Transport 21, an investment framework that will complete the job of giving Ireland a world-class transport infrastructure. Transport 21 includes a Metro link from St Stephen's Green to Swords - Metro North.
A Metro link to Dublin Airport has been on the agenda for some time. I am glad that a decision has now been taken, the resources provided and delivery to start. The Railway Procurement Agency has already undertaken a considerable amount of technical, design and feasibility work on this project. However now, unlike before, we have the resources to match the projects. That in short is what makes Transport 21 different. And because we have the resources, not only can the project get underway, but equally we can extend Metro North to Swords.
We have the resources because of the hard work and enterprise of the Irish people and a Government that works with them. Our goal with Transport 21 is to make sure that Ireland is successful not just today but also in the years ahead.
I am happy to be here today to launch this further significant step - the public consultation process on the selection of the best route for Metro North.
The consultation brochure provided outlines the three route options. To date, indications are that the central route is strongest from a number of points of view including construction feasibility, fulfilling transportation needs and capital cost. However, the final route will not be chosen until the public consultation is concluded, the people have had an opportunity to give their views and the Railway Order processes complete.
The RPA will consult widely, with people living and working in the city, public representatives, agencies and local authorities. This exercise gives people an opportunity to express their views and have these views taken into account in the implementation of the project.
So, why Metro?
With growing employment, car ownership and population, congestion is also growing in the Greater Dublin Area.
While the significant improvements to the bus, heavy rail and road networks contained in Transport 21 will improve congestion, what is really needed are new rail corridors providing high quality, high capacity and fast services where there is no real current alternative to the car. Transport 21 provides these new corridors with Metro North, West and the seven new Luas projects
The success of Luas shows that Dublin is ready for a new approach to public transport - one that provides higher capacity, greater accessibility and greater comfort. Dublin is one of only a few European capitals that do not already have a metro.
Metro will be modern, attractive and accessible. Taking the central route option as an example, Metro North would carry a minimum of 80,000 passengers a day with a train every 4 minutes, increasing to 90 seconds as demand builds. People can get from the City Centre to Swords in 26 minutes and from the City Centre to Dublin Airport in 17 minutes - less than half the time of the same journey at present.
Crucially, just like Luas before it, Metro will get people out of cars and onto public transport - 41,000 cars per day in fact.
Metro will reduce travel times and congestion, improve the reliability, availability and quality of public transport and make public transport more attractive to car users. Reducing car journeys can only have a beneficial effect on the net air quality in Dublin. Metro is set to improve the quality of life for the people of Dublin and for those visiting the capital on business or as tourists.
Metro is also important to the continued development of Dublin Airport. At present the Airport caters for 20 million passengers a year and this is expected to reach 30 million passengers by 2015. This growth will not be possible without increased public transport.
Metro will bring opportunity for new developments of housing and employment. It offers the opportunity for improved access to public transport is new parts of Dublin. It makes public transport journeys to different parts of the City straightforward.
Metro offers a more accessible mode of transport for people with impaired mobility providing safe access for wheelchair users and well as state-of-the-art audio and visual passenger information systems.
Metro North will integrate with other services in the city - connecting with Metro West, the Maynooth rail line, the Tallaght and Sandyford Luas lines and DART (by means of the planned Interconnector) at St. Stephens Green. The Dublin Bus network will be re-organised so that it complements and feeds into Metro, thus extending the advantages to other communities.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chairman, the Board, the Chief Executive and staff of the RPA for their work on and dedication to Metro North to date. I encourage the people of Dublin to involve themselves in this public consultation exercise and I look forward to many more landmark developments like this on Metro in the future.