McDonald and Cuffe on Metro North

On PrimeTime last week, Sean Barrett and Edgar Morgenroth cast severe doubt on the wisdom of Metro North. They are now joined by Frank McDonald.

Cairan Cuffe’s response starts with “[n]ow is the time to invest”. That says it all really. You can read the rest for yourself.

The Green Party is apparently still oblivious to the situation with the economy and the public finances. Cuffe wants to invest billions of euros in a project with a doubtful return. Gormley wants to spend unnecessary hundreds of millions of euros on waste disposal, despite warnings of his own EPA.  Ryan invests ESB’s money in electric cars and continues a subsidy scheme that does not deliver according to his own SEAI.

It is never wise to waste money, but now is a particularly bad time.

Dublin is badly served by public transport at present. Liberation of the bus market is the way forward.

UPDATE: Metro North got planning.

67 replies on “McDonald and Cuffe on Metro North”

As a matter of interest: has anyone every done a study on whether or not the Dart and Dundrum LUAS line affected density in its hinterland?
(It might be too early to tell with the LUAS line, but some indications might present themselves).

@RT: “It is never wise to waste money, but now is a particularly bad time.”

Obviously you are not a politician. Politicians (contemporary ones, alas), are selected on the basis that they are genetically pre-programmed to ‘waste’ tax euros – else they are not successful politicians. Thought you knew that!

“It is far, far better and much safer to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought” [J.K Galbraith]

Brian P

I can see no logic to building Metro North when we haven’t looked at implementing a bus system that will work for Dublin, where private operators can compete to provide the service required.

There is an easy solution to keep everybody happy – just rebrand the bus network a ‘metro’ like they have done in Seattle -

That way FF and Greens can say the deliver a metro and we can put the money to use where it is needed.

Look at the economists arguing against a stimulus during a recession!

From what I can see, such a stimulus would be good for the economy but bad for the public finances. But sure what do I know.


All good stuff, but, as I’m sure you know, the Greens are hanging in in government to lock-in as many of their madcap schemes as they can to ensure the continued loyalty of their fanatical supporters and the survival, post-government, of the party as a viable political entity.

Rather than lone voices expressing valid critiques of these policies, the ESRI should be conducting the independent and objective analysis required. You may find my comment on the previous thread re Governor Honohan’s recent speech of interest.


Famine follies?

Cuffe wrote: “Construction prices are good value in today’s environment.”

Unfortunately, public funds have never been more expensive. 7% return on bonds means that both the Metro and DART Underground projects should be shelved.

There is a huge problem with bus networks that some seem to overlook –
Dublin 1 and 2 are full of traffic chokepoints; unless you were willing to bar cars off entire streets, more buses just wont improve matters.

I reckon that Dublin should have a rapid rail transit system, but it will take generations to build up. The metro north route would an integral part of any such system. However I dont feel that MN necessarily has to be first line to be built.

I defer to Frank Mcdonald with regard to the wiseness of a decision to go ahead with metro north especially when there is a cheaper alternative.

But this should not stop a goverment from investing in rail over the long term.
In the western world we are seeing a reversal of road based transport as the oil age is coming to a slow end.
Banks can no longer provide credit to mask static wages and indeed now wages are declining.
Therefore more and more workers will no longer be able to afford personnel transport to commute or even travel.
Once not so long ago China traveled on Bicycle and westerners traveled in almost exclusively in their combustion chariots.
While I expect a massive economic shock to China as the dollar flows eventually stop, the balance of energy flows may balance at a collectively lower energy density.
I believe there was Edwardian plans for a metro that crossed Dublin from both north to south and east to west but given the appallingly low density more heavy trams may be best for the near future.
Remember we are dealing with a currency that is perhaps in its final decade of compound interest that squeezes out all capital creation – when it collapses imported oil will skyrocket as the true cost of oil capital is realised.
More buses are not the answer for Dublin or even Cork – Plans should be made to engage is a massive rolling Luas system to essentially replicate the old light railways of the Edwardian era and some other routes that are practical in the new urban environment before the second collapse of fiat currencies against Gold( real capital) takes place.
Old style capital creation is becoming viable again as the subsidised oil based capital extraction / oil extraction is in its death throes.
Lets embrace this new/old world again.

There is a fundamental economic problem in the classification of projects which are categorised by government as “capital”.

In economic terms it really only makes sense to include under the heading “capital” those projects which will earn a rate of return which exceeds their cost of capital. But, in political and administrative terms, expenditure on any government project which stretches beyond one year gets classified as “capital”.

Those advocating these projects – such as Minister Cuffe in this instance – act as if all projects classifed as “capital” by the Irish public sector will earn a rate of return which exceeds their cost of capital. They therefore consider such projects to be “a good thing”. But they ignore:
a. the fact that many such projects have not had a formal financial evaluation;
b. the fact that many such projects (e.g. rail investment) inevitably generate a sub-par economic return; and
c. Cormac O’Sullivan’s point that the cost of capital for the Irish state has risen sharply.

Long-term solution: a restriction on those projects which may be classified as “capital” to those which formal financial evaluation indicates would more than cover their cost of capital.

Both Frank McDonald and Ciaran Cuffe are selective in the presentation of facts and tendentious in their interpretation of the fact they do present.

Frank McDonald does not refer to the fact that DART Underground will have a station at St. Stephen’s Green. This will lead to exactly the same destruction that he attributes solely to the “Construction of Metro North would also have devastating impacts on the city centre. The northwest quadrant of St Stephen’s Green would be turned into a huge hole in the ground …..”
Why such cheerleading for Iarnród Éireann? The Railway Safety Commission reported on the collapse of the Malahide Viaduct collapse that “Iarnród Éireann had failed to implement a competence assessment for all personnel engaged in safety critical roles in accordance with IÉ Railway Safety Standard 67”
Is this the kind of management team that can be let loose with any project?

Ciaran Cuffe completely ignores the north side of Dublin City. The 2006 Census shows that the north side of Dublin City has nearly 300,000 people – a far greater number than either South Dublin City or South Dublin or Dun Laoghaire Rathdown. Yet these areas already have two on-street LUAS lines, both of which have been extended.

In addition, the 2006 census also shows that 40 per cent of Dublin City households do not have a car. In contrast ,only 14 per cent of Fingal households do not have a car
The occupants of these households are being denied an integrated public transport system by a focus on prestige projects such as Metro North and the DART Interconnector. North Dublin needs at least two LUAS lines, as part of an integrated mainly on-street LUAS lines as the core of a public transport services to meet the Government aims of public transport policy ie. To ensure the provision of a well-functioning, integrated public transport system that enhances competitiveness and contributes to social cohesion

For an alternative to both Metro North and DART Interconnector see my guest posting (courtesy of Richard Tol)

Why do Frank McDonald and Ciaran Cuffe not focus on the complete failure to link the two existing LUAS lines for passenger services – the “joining-the-dots” promised in the 2007 Government programme. Building two non-interconnected passenger rail-based lines in the first decade of the 21st century is ignores the mistakes made when railways were first built here.

Brecht noted that “Intelligence is not to make no mistakes, but quickly to see how to make them good”
The failure to link the two existing LUAS lines coupled with the childlike emphasis on prestige projects (promoted by feuding public sector baronies) does not augur well for the joined-up thinking needed for the SMART economy.

@Kevin O’Brien
re. chokepoints
Yes. Why not go to another plane in Dublin city?
I suggest building more road tunnels for cross city traffic.
Because tunnels for road traffic do not need stations, these are a far cheaper way to provide that extra capacity in built up areas .

Is there, or has there ever been, any infrastructural project in Ireland that Irish economists, or indeed Frank McDonald, approve of? I can’t think of any. In my lifetime, virtually every single infrastructural project has been the subject of vehement opposition from the country’s economists. We don’t need it, they invariably cry. Among those which spring to mind as being subject to economists campaigning against them: the motorway network, Dublin Port Tunnel, DART, LUAS, Dublin T2 terminal, Cork Airport, Shannon Airport, Knock Airport, other regional airports, MoneyPoint 2, the National Children’s Hospital, a National Stadium, a National Theatre, National Conference Centre, and a host of others.

As I am not from Dublin and do not live in Dublin mostly, I can not offer an opinion on this particular project. All I will say is that, if Irish economists have their way, the country will once again have a massive infrastructural deficit later this decade. Deja vu. Back in the early 1990s, almost all economists were forecasting that the population would fall from 3.5m in 1991 to 3.3m by 2011 (eg Davy Kellejer McCarthy report published in 1991) and, on the back of these forecasts, infrastructural development was run down to almost nothing. We were told we wouldn’t need a modern infrastructure because there would be nobody here to use it. In the event, the population rose by over 1 million to 4.5m, is still rising, depite what ESRI say, and, given the high birth rate and low death rate, is likely to rise very rapidly over the next decade. The combination of this population growth and the rundown in infrastructural development resulted in a massive infrastructural deficit by the late 1990s, with queues and traffic jams everywhere, and the infrastructure totally unable to cope with the surge in growth of both population and output. Thanks to Bertie Ahern, this infrastructural deficit has been or is close to being largely eliminated. We now have a world-class motorway network, good airport facilities (or at least in a few weeks we will), and so on. The new National Conference Centre is about to open. The T2 terminal is about to open and, thankfully, hasn’t been mothballed as Colm McCarthy (the same one as mentioned above) and other economists wanted. Thanks to the Port Tunnel, you can drive from O’Connell Street to the new T2 terminal in 15 minutes, which is far better than the corresponding journey from main airport to capital city centre in virtually any other country I’ve been in recently. All these developments required vision, foresight and confidence for the decision to be made that that they should be proceeded with, none of which qualities Irish economists have an iota of.

On a more general point, it makes perfect economic sense to ramp up investment in the economy, although, as I say, I am not offering an opinion on this particular project. The fall in GDP since 2007 has been almost entirely due to a fall in investment and construction output. Manufacturing, merchandise exports and services exports have now surpassed their pre-recession peaks. It is the fall in investment and construction output that is entirely responsible for GDP being lower now than in 2007. Therefore, it makes economic sense to ramp up this component of the economy. And Ciaran Cuffe makes a very good point about prices for construction projects now being extremely low.

The best option for Dublin is to open up the bus routes to competition. Most routes in the capital would operate more efficiently and more comfortably if the private companies were allowed to service them. And there would be no cost to the Exchequer.
Some routes that were always going to be loss-making, but had a social value, would be operated with a subsidy from the State (via the National Transport Authority). The important difference here is that the subsidy would follow the route, not the company providing the route.
These simple steps would probably save the country around €50m per year (Dublin Bus’s annual subvention is around €80m).
Once we got the bus service sorted we would be in a better position to assess the merits of Metro north.

I reckon that the “low density” argument is a cod.
An area population density is likely to increase dramatically if the transports links are significantly improved.

If there are any economists – or even accountants – out there, they might kindly inform us about absolute budget constraints. Government spending comes from taxes or borrowing. Please explain which taxes will pay for this (or the spending that will be cancelled) and/or whom you propose to borrow from. The debt markets are utterly closed to Ireland right now, in case you hadn’t noticed. So it’s taxes or reducing other spending. What’s it to be folks?
Altermatively, look at the very sensible investment bank proposal for the UK from Gerry Holtham in today’s FT.

@Cormac Lucy

The problem with studies that focus on financial evaluations is that they make assumptions about the input costs and more importantly the future running costs on present inputs.
We live in extraordinarily volatile times where the global FX , bond and commodities markets are in turmoil.
During the last oil crisis the French executive decided to make simple strategic decisions outside the rigged monetory system so that their country could retain wealth.
Poor quality coal – Nuclear No oil – continue to develop rail and now Trams are being used in French towns the size of Cork.

And what did the British do – they made strategic decisions based upon a flawed monetory system.
They built just only one Nuclear reactor with all the cost of a stunted programme and created the Channel tunnel with private finance – It is clearly not very bright to expect utilities to make money on there own – that is not their function – their function is to increase the general wealth.
But in Britian they were in a ecosystem where the only finance came from bank credit that blew up housing to absurd dimensions for little reward.How can you recognize real wealth when your envoirment is swapped with funny money ?
Really the concentration on finance above wealth has gone to extreme levels – remember money is just a symbolic token nothing more.

I am not totally sure but as the project has been on the go for a number of years it could have been tendered with construction cost assumptions much higher than the current levels and these are now built in to the price to be paid to a consortia. Assuming the NPV of the payments to the winning consortia were 4.58 Bn in 2004 the initial construction element of this could be as low as 50% of the total (the remainder would be financing costs, risk, ongoing maintenance and repalcement etc.) and the overall saving much less than that mentioned by C Cuffe.

There is huge risk for a construction company entering into the the construction contract with the PPP SPV given that many of the subcontracts will not be let until 2014/2015 and by that time one would think that supply would match demand more closely and construction prices would have risen (input construction costs certainly will have) – it is not the price now that should be considered but the price in a few years. Some kind of construction cost inflation prediction would be built in to the bid price.

To capture the value in the current construction market requires projects that can be brought to site as quickly as possible, generate cashflow for contractors now and don’t have a high degree of specialist trades that have to be purchased internationally (e.g. tunnelling). Lots of quick smaller projects where local labour and resources can be used.

PPP has not really been able in this country to get projects to site quickly, irrespective of the current difficulties with funding PPP projects. With government funds costing c 7% certainly rerunning the CBA with this discount rate may give a different investment decision. However; given the difficulties that Covanta are experiencing after investing c €25M so far with their waste to energy project, pulling the plug on the Metro PPP project will further severely impact on the credibility of the Irish PPP market and so it may not happen.

With the greens mainly Dublin based, it is in their interest to advocate this way.
The only card left in their hand…

@Kevin O’Brien
“I reckon that the “low density” argument is a cod.
An area population density is likely to increase dramatically if the transports links are significantly improved.”
Perhaps, but only if the area is not already ‘built’. So essentially, unless transport links are built to serve no-one, the existing density is as much as there will be. We don’t really do the mass redevelopment thing here.


@Cormac O’S
Now now. Don’t you know that we should follow the guidance of Lord Stern of Brentford on discount rates? It’s 1.5%.

As per usual, your taste for distortion gets the better of you. Your attacks on Stern freely mixed technical points with ad-hominem abuse. Many of the technical points were invalid — they were in fact nothing less than self-conscious sophistry. Strangely, you couldn’t find time to defend your arguments when challenged.

Your behaviour is extraordinary for either an academic or a public servant. Given your record, it would be extremely naive for anyone to accept any statement of yours at face value.

Perhaps, but only if the area is not already ‘built’.

Development can describe both the construction of a new building, or the doing up / re-development of an existing build or complex of buildings.

During the building boom – the first type got all the headlines, but the second type is just as common, and probably still is quite common.

Number of buildings is an unreliable measure of density. occupancy / vacancy is an issue. An area can go from low to high density without a significant increase in the number of actual buildings.


I think saying he acted “like a colonial master would tell the savages what to think” would count as personal abuse to most people.

You employed transparent sophistry. Any true scholar, in fact anyone with a trace of intellectual integrity, would defend his point of view directly instead of using yet more inane personal attacks. Why don’t you do so now?


In general road tunnels are not a bad idea, but the issue of functioanlity arises; There can only really be two nodes (i.e. where the tunnel starts and finishs) unless something extremely convoluted is built. An underground can have mutliple nodes (stations).

Also a road tunnel would surely have to be much wider than a rail tunnel, and therefore likely to cost more. I doubt that the stations contribute that much to the overall costs of a underground line.

Stern’s approach to policy advice is paternalistic, as noted in peer-reviewed publications by Beckermann, Cole, Jensen, and Mendelsohn. One explanation is that Stern was educated to be an administrator of the British Empire.

It is my policy to not feed the trolls. This policy applies to you.

Beware hidden extras (& commercial sensitivities).

I was stunned to hear that the taxpayer may have to compensate PPP partners where toll roads weren’t generating adequate revenues. I fear the ‘true’ cost might be hidden in similar fashion for the proposed metro. Any future taxpayer liabilities must be made known.


Your policy is to evade challenges to your participation in propaganda campaigns, distortion of others’ views and novel rebranding of externalities as charity.

Where’s your commitment to liberalising markets in the case of the Dublin waste disposal market? Where was your commitment to fiscal prudence when the government bailed out the ESRI pension fund? Where was your immense foresight when you were promising the country average growth of 3.75% in the 2008-2015 period?

@Ahura Mazda

You’ll be equally appalled to hear that Prof Tol endorses a contract he’s never even seen, in fact a contract not seen by any elected representative either, in the case of the Poolbeg incinerator.

Great to see An Bord Pleanala giving this project a unanimous endorsement. It is a vital public transport corridor which will significantly improve access all along the north side of the city and provide us with something which is a standard feature of other European capital cities – a rail link between the airport and the city.

The idea that Metro North should be deferred in preference for opening up the bus service to competition is absurd. Buses have neither the capacity, speed or reliability to match Metro. For buses to even approach Metro standards we would have to ban cars permanently from huge areas of the city centre which is impossible considering the opposition to the College Green busgate. It is well known that people are much more likely to switch from cars to rail-based public transport than bus-based. This is because as I said above, rail provides speeds, capacity and reliablity which buses never can.

Furthermore, the idea that Dublin is too small or not densely-populated enough to justify Metro North is another red herring. Cities smaller than Dublin (Seville and Oporto) and less-densely populated ( Stockholm, Budapest and Lisbon) have metro systems and they work very well. Moreover, Dublin already has a commuter-rail line in operation – it’s called DART. I defy anyone to say that Dublin’s density doesn’t provide that with sufficient patronage. The fact is that the RPA has designed this line so that there are plenty of trip-generators within a 1km radius of each stop and therefore ensure plenty of passengers on each train.

Frank McDonald has been virulently opposed to this project ever since it was included in the Government’s Transport 21 project. He is largely responsible for the misconception that MN will cost 5 billion. It’ll more than likely be 2.5 billion once final tenders are in by December. Sean Barrett is against rail transport of any kind and should be ignored by all reasonable people. If Sean Barrett had his way the DART and Luas would never have been built and Dublin would make Los Angeles look like paragons in public transport. Barrett was wrong about DART, wrong about Luas and he’s wrong about Metro North.

It’ll be great to see the builders out next March starting work on this vital piece of public transport.

@ Adrian

You’re off-topic, which is characteristic of trolling. Also, you don’t understand the term externality.

Re the Metro North – in the case of airport-to-city transport why can’t we just put more buses through the tunnel?


I understand the term externality perfectly, including its applications to heroin, cocaine, TNT… and pollution. In each case, the transaction impacts unrelated third parties in addition to the buyer and seller. Hence ‘externality’.

The professor was the first to go off-topic — it was he who introduced Stern to the thread and, given this, neither you nor he has any right to silence replies. Of course “feeding the trolls” would, in his case, amount to canibalism.

“in the case of airport-to-city transport why can’t we just put more buses through the tunnel?”

The trip from o’connell bridge to the southern mouth of the port tunnell is pretty much the same distance to Griffith avenue. The only benefit accrued by that is time saved from Grittith avenue onwards. But after Griffith avenue, the trip to the airport is pretty quick.

@ Adrian

“I understand the term externality perfectly”

I don’t believe you. You may not be bothered proving me wrong – fair enough. But if you are bothered, please do demonstrate how Prof Tol ‘rebranded’ externalities as charity.

“Long-term solution: a restriction on those projects which may be classified as “capital” to those which formal financial evaluation indicates would more than cover their cost of capital.”
Unfortunately that would see much of what is considered capital spend under the NDP reclassified as voted expenditure. This would add to the budget deficit. Can’t see that as likely, myself. Can you? (Not that I disagree with you – much of the spending under the NDP, particularly the soft spending is of doubtful economic return, whatever social benefits it might have; many would argue that some of the institutions set up under the NDP should exist anyway as part of ‘normal’ government in a ‘sane’ society).

@ Kevin O’Brien

Fair point, hadn’t really thought of it that way. I’ve taken an airport bus that went throught the tunnel (can’t remember if it was aircoach or DB) – it was pretty fast (maybe 25 min or so). Don’t remember the exact time of day – maybe 730ish. I just don’t think the time savings created by a metro north would be worth 4.5bn (or even 2.5bn).


Well here he describes as an “ethical preference” relevant to the political plane what was in reality the behaviour of private citizens organising their own affairs. He describes this curiously-defined “ethical preference” as being “revealed by insurance, *charity*, and savings”. Schelling, whose views Tol endorses, has repeatedly characterised climate change as a “foreign aid” problem.

It’s not for me to prove anything to you — you’re the one who made the accusation and it’s for you to back it up.


You brought Stern into the conversation on the flimsiest of pretexts. Well done. You cannot turn around now and dismiss others’ replies on the exact same subject as ‘off-topic’.

It was very likely DB. I took an airlink from Heuston. It went all the way down the quays to Busaras, then the East Wall , then through the tunnel to the airport. arriving almost 30 minutes later than intended.

Airport journeys are just a minor aspect of the overall project , given more attention than it deserves. Commuter journeys from Swords etc will probably be the bulk of the traffic. It is just helpful that the airport is there.

Investing in greenhouse gas emission reduction is akin to investing in a project the uncertain returns of which will benefit other people in the future. Hence the reference to insurance, charity, and savings.

I never equated private preferences and social preferences.

@ Adrian

Seems to me more like you’re thinking of the internalisation of externalities, rather than of the externalities themselves. Perhaps I’m just nitpicking. I can see why characterisation of climate policy as aid would bother you, since it’s the rich who emitted most of the carbon. If I interpret you correctly, you think of climate policy as an obligation, while aid is a option. Both cost money however, so economists do weigh them against each other to see which is better, particularly if rich countries are apparently unwilling to do both.


The “revealed preferences” you mentioned had nothing whatsoever to do with government policy. Those whose behaviour was observed weren’t asked their opinion of policy, informed it might be used to justify one policy over another, or asked if their preferences would be the same in the polling booth or in government office.

You never did equate private and social preferences — you merely shifted from one (valid) interpretation of private preference to another (invalid) one while ignoring the transition. Your claims to scientific and moral supremacy over Stern were, in this regard at the very least, without any economic basis.

The verb ‘compensate’ would be more accurate than ‘benefit’. Do you deny CO2 emissions have externalities?

@ Kevin

You may be right about the tunnel not being so hot an alternative. I think I got side-tracked a bit thinking about the airport commute.

Anyone else reminded of the monorail episode of the simpsons?

Going from Heuston to the Airport through the tunnel connects with Richard Tol’s point about liberalisation of the buses. Why does that bus go through the city centre at all? why not up through Church St /Bolton st? Makes no sense.

@ Kevin

Presuming that your tongue was not in cheek as you were typing – perhaps that is where the passengers are?

@JtO on economists and infrastructure,

I know you’re a self-proclaimed optimist John but perhaps at times that’s due to you comparing things to a worst-case scenario. If economists are against a given project (Terminal 2, say) that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re against a second terminal in Dublin Airport. Rather they’re against the proposals in their current form.

T2 seems by all standards to be a very nice structure. Particularly when you’re driving through and the building arches above you. But it cost €600m, if I recall correctly. I trust Michael O’Leary about as far as I can throw him but he said a similarly-sized (but non-swanky) T2 could have been built for €200m. Let’s add a 100% “MOL Reality Clause” and we’re still at €400m. That would have saved the country €200m, which buys a lot of buses.

Summary: if you hear that economists are against something, be sure to know what their counterfactual is.

@ Barry
I see what you mean. I meant an Airlink bus service from Heuston specifically, with another from the city centre.

The Metro isn’t just about the airport. A bus via the DPT does damn all good if you’re heading to DCU.

While I think the Metro should be prioritised behind the IE project (incidentally, the tunnelling wouldn’t be done by IE but by contractors who will actually need to compete for future jobs so it will probably be the safest part of the network) the reality is that it adds extra “road-lane-equivalents” by removing buses from the existing streets and reduces inner-city pollution (removed to the electricity generation sites) and noise.

The interesting part is ABP’s truncation of the plan north of Swords and relocation of the depot to the site proposed for Metro West. Hopefully any future extension beyond Swords will be to an actual destination like Donabate Railway Station and not simply a tarmaced field like the fiasco built next to the M3 at Dunboyne.

@Richard Tol

“Sean Barrett and Edgar Morgenroth cast severe doubt on the wisdom of Metro North. They are now joined by Frank McDonald.”

Um – Frank McDonald has been on the bandwagon against MN since “The tearing of the Green” in 2008 (earlier if you count his grilling of Frank Allen in 2007 as journalism rather than opinion)

Something has been preying on my mind regarding the recent Metro kerfuffle; have any indicative journey prices been mentioned? Typically (in my limited experience of European cities) dedicated fast-track lines leaving Airports tend to charge a premium for their services. Is this to be the case with the Metro? If so, then presumably all those putative non-Airport punters will be asked to fork over 6-10 euro’s for their daily one-way trip into the city centre?

Sorry for a third comment in quick succession but I just reread that article. Frank McDonald compares MN and Interconnector with ridership figures (although I’d prefer to see Revenue Passenger Kilometres than simply passenger counts) but then pulls Blue Line into the mix. What’s the projected ridership for Blue Line expressed in RPKs/million invested?

Hint – a bendybus on a QBC through a leafy suburban area will usually pull in a lot less than a 4 car electric 2 minutes headway per service metro or a 6-8 car DART on a segregated alignment through transit dependent areas.

@Richard Tol I felt if this blog was anything it would be engaging critical faculties when it came to numbers, even if St Frank of D’Olier Street is involved.

Frank McDonald’s simultaneous advocation of DART Underground and criticism of Metro North because it’ll upset Stephen’s Green is unsustainable. Does he not realise that with DART Underground there’ll be trucks, builders and pile-drivers there anyway as a DART station is due to be built there. Given that Iarnród Éireann and the RPA have been working together to co-ordinate their plans for stations at the Green it makes sense to go ahead with both projects at the same time.

To those who say “why can’t we just put more buses through the Port Tunnel?”.

Firstly, we’re doing that already with the 747, 748 and Aircoach buses. However, the limitations of bus as a mode of transport are exemplified by these routes. They are slow through the city centre, taking twice the time a Metro would take. They also don’t have the capacity to provide a viable public transport alternative to getting a car to and from the airport. This is why we have one of the largest long-term carparks at any European city at Dublin. If we had a Metro to the airport, we could devote some of that car park space to hangars, piers etc..

Secondly, rail links to airports exist alongside bus routes in other European cities. Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Vienna and Zurich have train lines connecting their airports to the city centre as well as bus service.

Thirdly, Metro North is not just about providing rail connections between the city and the airport. It is also about bringing Swords within 20 minutes of the city centre, it’s about giving Ballymun a rail line promised since the 1960s, it’s about putting a train station outside a large university – DCU , it’s about linking with the Luas Green Line to provide a North-South public transport axis in Dublin. As Labour’s Joan Burton said, “it’s a no-brainer”.


I’m guessing you’re somehow involved with Metro North.

1) No 747/8 I ever took went through the tunnel.
2) I previously lived in Sandymount and really valued Aircoach’s Greytones-Sandymount-Airport service. I wonder how much they pay in tolls including Tunnel and East Link?
3) Cars create congestion. Saying that buses are slow because of congestion is a bit like saying my arteries are hard because my heart is beating too slowly.
4) People get to/from DCU the same way they get to/from every other university, by adequate bus service.
5) I’m sure DAA can’t wait to lose their LT carpark revenue.
6) As is often said by Richard Tol and others, the Dublin bus market needs smart and structured liberalisation.


I have no involvement with Metro North. I’m simply a citizen of Dublin interested in getting good public transport.

With Metro North and DART Underground, you will find it much quicker to take a DART to Drumcondra station and then switch to Metro there to the airport than continue with the Aircoach service. It’ll get you there much quicker and be much more reliable.

Congestion is a major reason why buses rank so far behind rail as an efficient form of transport. They’re held up by every traffic jam, roadworks and traffic light going. They make crossing the city a chore at times. Once Metro North and DART Underground are in place we will have the rail backbone which will speed everything up as you will no longer be entirely dependent on bus.

DCU is hardly served by adequate bus service. You have to change 2 and sometimes three times to get there from large parts of the city. This can take up to 2 hours and make DCU a very unattractive proposition. Metro North will transform this as you’ll be able to get on it in the city centre and be at DCU in less than 15 minutes. You’ll also be able to get there in abot 30 minutes from most DART stations once the interchange station at St. Stephen’s Green is built

The DAA does want to take that car-parking space and turn it into offices and other commercial developments. That will be impossible if there is no Metro stop built at the airport.

The Dublin bus market may need liberalisation, but bus can only contribute a part to the upgrade of the city’s public transport network to 21st century standards. We also need rail and Metro North is part of that.

I’d think that most people like rail. I do. I would postpone the decision by five years. We do not have the money. We need the jobs, but 4000 jobs can be created for less than 2.5 billion euro.

A classic example of deferred capital creation to pay off unrepayable debt – the very core of the economic disaster.
Overvalued debt money makes capital construction too expensive while oil remains dirt cheap due to the same phenenoma thus making cars and buses viable transport even though they eat huge resourses…………
What is unsustainable cannot be sustained
Something is very wrong with global accounting.

@Richard Tol

Is it correct to say the cost is 2.5 billion? I heard on the radio that there will be no immediate monetary cost as the plan is to build via a Public Private Partnership with the contractors controlling the service for 25years to recoup costs and make a profit. Also €500 million is to be supplied via the European Investment Bank. Am I right? Is it facetious to say that 2.5billion is being spent for 4,000 jobs? It’s not the same as 2.5 billion being spent from current spending, is it? Am glad to be educated and set right on this if anybody has an inclination to respond or point me in the right direction on the issue of costs.

Re the oft-quoted 4,000 jobs, how many of these jobs do we reckon will be available to Irish workers? What I mean by this is how many of the current workforce are likely to have the expertise required to participate in a 10k underground tunnel-bore exercise. It would seem to me that the companies likely to win the tender would likely have a pool of talent they use for such work, and will seek to use them in this project. But maybe I’m wrong, and other projects like the Port Tunnel and the Luas were boons for Irish civil engineers, construction workers and so on. Anybody got any inside information on this at all?

@Richard Tol,

I’m glad you like rail and that you’re not like Seán Barrett who would have us all spending our lives in traffic jams with his ridiculous anti-rail bias. However, I can’t accept a 5 year delay to a vital piece of public transport infrastructure. We have already waited over 20 years for a rail line connecting the city centre with the airport as people like Seán Barrett opposed the 3-line DART network to be built during the 80s. 2016 is long enough to wait for good public transport.

The money issue is also not an immediate concern. Metro North will cost a maximum of €250 million over the next 2 years and we don’t start paying back on the PPP until MN becomes operational in 2016. Even then, we don’t pay the €2.5 billion in full. Instead, we pay annual instalments of about €100 million over the 30 year time-frame of the partnership. By 2016, Ireland’s economy will have recovered sufficiently to support that sort of expenditure. Moreover, in the context of a multi-billion euro capital budget which we will spend recession or no recession, it stands to reason that we would devote a portion of it to vital pieces of infrastructure like Metro North.

@ hoganmahew

” “Long-term solution: a restriction on those projects which may be classified as “capital” to those which formal financial evaluation indicates would more than cover their cost of capital.”

Unfortunately that would see much of what is considered capital spend under the NDP reclassified as voted expenditure. This would add to the budget deficit. Can’t see that as likely, myself. Can you? ”

I agree with you that it is unlikely but desirable. But it underlines the same corruption of public sector accounting that allows pension liabilites be accounted for on a pay-as-you-go basis (rather than on an accruals basis). That is a corruption which extends across the western world (and isn’t just limited to ourselves).

With Ireland facing an existential financial crisis as a result of too much debt and with the western world facing the final innings of its decades-long build-up of debt, there is a real prospect that the entire system gives way at some point over the next two decades.

It is after that when we shall have to return to basics such as proper accruals accounting in the public sector and proper classification there of what constitutes a capital project.

Here is how €60 million can build Metro North, Metro West and and an Interconnector in 9 months.

Step 1 – Ask Yourself Why a Luas Cannot Have Rubber Wheels and then Run a Luas Down the Port Tunnel to the Airport .See a US national academy of sciences report on the bogota Bus Rapid Transit System here

Step 2 – Keep Going with the Luas / Bus-Tram from St Stephen’s Green to Heuston via St Jame’s Hospital See map here

Step 3 – Pause and Draw Breath. Did we just build The airport Metro & the Dart Interconnector?
… as well as join up the Luas lines all for the price of three bus gates, a set of traffic lights and some bus lanes.

Step 4 – Turn the Hard Shoulder on the M50 into a Bus Lane
Just like they did in Minneapolis – St Paul by only allowing buses to use the hard shoulder when the speed drops below 35 miles per hour. See report at .

Step 6 – Move Heuston Station to Park West & Run Newbridge Commuter Trains through the legendary lost Phoenix Park Tunnel to a new station at Connolly North

Step 6 – Build Connolly North: The Station That Should Have Been Built Instead of Docklands.

Step 7 – Build a real Live Metro Beside the Grand Canal. You only need a 7 meter wide alignment, so move the canal a few meters over. Okay, this costs a bit more but can be phase 2.

Step 8 – Admire Handiwork and Count the Savings.

Calculating the cost of this is quite easy.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy ( have created a handy cost calculator spreadsheet for bus-tram implementations. It is available at The cost will be about €60 million.

We know the current going rate for building a Luas / Metro line is €40 million per Kilometre. After the 30% recession induced discount this will be 30 million per kilometre which means the overall cost of the Grand Canal Metro line will be €330 million.

Further information on these ideas, including detailed maps, can be found at

Comments are closed.