Estimated €450m expected to have been spent on metro projects before Metrolink construction

Figure includes estimated €300 million on current plan to connect Dublin airport to the city centre and €150m on past initiatives

Computer generated images of Metrolink, the planned Dublin metro train running from Swords to Ranelagh

An estimated €450 million is expected to have been spent by the State on metro projects before full-scale construction of the new Metrolink line begins.

The sums involved were described as “astronomical stuff” by the chairman of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley.

A PAC report last year found that nearly €150 million was lost on abandoned projects such as the old Metro North and Metro West projects.

A PAC meeting on Thursday heard how it is expected that in the region of €300 million will be spent on the design, planning and procurement phase of the current Metrolink project from Swords to Dublin city centre via the airport before construction begins.

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Transport officials defended the spending while insisting Metrolink is a separate project from Metro North.

The overall cost of Metrolink has been estimated at €9.5 billion. It remains in the planning process and if approved it is not expected that construction will be completed until between 2031 and 2034.

National Transport Authority (NTA) deputy chief executive Hugh Creegan told the PAC on Thursday that some €158 million had been spent on Metrolink as of the end of December 2023.

He confirmed that no significant physical work has taken place but some “enabling works” had occurred and most of the costs are associated with design, investigations and planning.

Mr Creegan said the next stage in the project is “intensive” and relates to procurement.

He suggested this could cost between €100 million and €200 million.

Asked by Mr Stanley if the pre-construction costs could come to €300 million overall Mr Creegan replied: “That’s the kind of order we’re talking about.”

Later in the meeting, Mr Stanley suggested that €450 million will have been spent on the metro projects “without ever buying a carriage or 1m of rail line or sending a digger out to the site” adding “this is astronomical stuff”.

Senior Department of Transport official Garret Doocey said the cost of getting multibillion euro projects like Metrolink through planning and pre-planning processes is “significant” and the Department and NTA’s job is to “ensure that we’re getting value for money for that expenditure”.

He said that Metro North was a “separate project” it was brought through under appropriate guidelines before it was cancelled.

Mr Stanley said he understood it was a separate project but added: “The fact of the matter is the aim is still to get the same thing. It’s to get connection between the city centre of Dublin, north of Dublin and the airport.”

Mr Creegan said the spending on the new project Metrolink is “enormous” but added: “that is what it costs to bring through a project of this scale through the design process and get it to construction and this is the time where you need to spend money in order to make sure you’ve got all the details right and minimise your problems downstream.”

Mr Stanley said it seemed “very expensive” when “so much money has already gone down the tube” arguing that €150 million was “wasted” previously with “not a thing to show for it”.

Mr Doocey responded to this saying there had been a railway order secured for Metro North but the then-Government decided not to proceed with that project.

Mr Stanley said that as a “policy decision” and was a matter “for a different forum”.

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