Speech on the Future of Dublin to Dublin Chamber Breakfast Meeting  

6th November, 2015

Good morning.


I would like to thank Gina and the team here at Dublin Chamber for the opportunity to speak to you all today. It is a few months since we last met, before the summer, and I am delighted that we could meet again so that I could discuss things with you further.


I do so at an exciting time for our city- the economy is recovering, our shops are gearing up for the best Christmas in many years and, after a long recession, we can look forward to a brighter economic future.


But the potential of that future will only be realised with investment- and that is what I want to talk to you about today.




Investing in transport is key to our continued economic growth and to delivering sustainable jobs now and in the future. You are, I am sure, aware of the Government’s Capital Plan which was launched recently at Heuston Station.


My Department’s element of the Plan is a €10 billion programme over 7 years, which brings annual investment in land transport from €1bn in 2014 to over €1.9 bn in 2022.


A significant gap had developed in recent years between the funding allocation for land transport and the funding levels required to maintain the existing system in adequate condition. To put this in context, we saw a fall in investment in this area, in GDP terms, from 1.64% in 2008 to 0.52% in 2013. This put funding levels at their lowest since the mid 1970’s.


The willingness of Government to restore investment in this area is a clear signal that we are serious about addressing the needs of an economy in full recovery and seeking to invest over the period in meeting future demands.


At the same time, we are taking a careful approach to the spending of public money, always knowing that we cannot fund all the projects we would like to, as quickly as we would like.


The plan includes:


–          A return to the necessary levels of investment to maintain our existing road and rail network to protect those assets now and into the future

–          A major transport project for north Dublin, namely new Metro North,  to tackle congestion in an area of the country that is experiencing rapid population growth

–          A schedule of investment to expand and improve the road network around Ireland.


It is predicated on three priorities of maintaining and upgrading our existing transport network, targeting urban congestion and improving connectivity around the country, particularly to key seaports and airports.


Of course, it is also predicated on our economy continuing to grow and develop. We may now be the fastest growing economy in Europe but there is nothing inevitable about that growth. We cannot take it for granted for a second. Nor will we.




This being the Dublin Chamber I want to concentrate on the investment plans for the capital, which overwhelmingly focus on public transport.


After a period of reduced public transport usage during the downturn, 2014 saw the start of a reversal of these trends. In 2014, public transport usage increased across all modes – bus, Luas and commuter rail- with an increase of 8 million passenger trips. In Dublin, that growth came in the form of an additional 2.1 million Luas passengers in 2014; 1.1 million extra passengers using our rail system, including suburban and DART lines; and a 3% growth in Dublin Bus users to more than 118 million passengers that year. That growth is continuing this year and is an indicator of our growing economy.


Under the Government’s Capital Plan, the public transport programme will reach €3.6bn.


€2.6bn will be invested in essential ‘steady state’ maintenance and asset renewal across the national public transport network.


A further €1bn will be invested to address growing congestion resulting from economic recovery and population growth.


This targeted investment will provide for;


  • Bus fleet replacement and capacity enhancement
  • The upgrading of Quality Bus Corridors with a view to progressing to BRT status over time on a small number of key routes
  • The completion of the Luas Cross City project in Dublin.
  • The completion of the City Centre Resignalling programme for the rail network
  • The construction of a new Central Traffic Control centre for commuter and intercity rail
  • An ongoing maintenance programme to ensure the safety and efficiency of the rail network overall.


By 2020, Exchequer investment will have incrementally reached requisite steady state funding levels.


By 2022, the additional investment, particularly over the final 3 years of the plan, will mean critical transport projects addressing congestion and improving the commuter experience are completed and operational, and some new major transport projects are commenced.




As part of the Plan, I announced that the Government intends to fund and build a new Metro North for Dublin.


As you will know, providing a high capacity public transport link along the City-Airport-Swords corridor has been an objective for some time.

However the original Metro North project had to be deferred due to the economic crisis and the Government made a commitment to review the project.


Based on the outcome of the recent North Dublin Transport Study undertaken by the National Transport Authority, the Government decided that a new Metro North scheme is the most appropriate public transport solution to address the transport needs of Dublin’s northside.


The new Metro north will run along almost the same route as the previous Metro, but will feature somewhat fewer stops and will be built more cost effectively.


It is expected that construction of the project would commence in 2021 with a view to delivery by 2026 or 2027.


The rationale for the project remains strong and the need for a public transport solution for north Dublin will become even more pressing in the medium to long term.


Travel demand along the corridor is anticipated to grow by up to 40% by 2033.


The current and potential future levels of car dependency on the corridor are simply not sustainable, particularly in the context of environmental impact and supporting future population and employment forecasts along the corridor.


To go into further detail, Metro will be a 16.5km light rail line connecting St Stephen’s Green to Swords, via Dublin Airport and we envisage the total cost of construction to be approximately €2.4 billion.


I believe it is important that this sum is in the public domain. Metro’s last incarnation did not come with an official price tag which led to some scepticism about the project.


Almost 8.5km of the route will run in a tunnel from St. Stephens Green to Griffith Avenue in Drumcondra, after which it will run overground, except where it runs under Dublin airport.


The route will serve key destinations such as the Mater Hospital, DCU, Ballymun and Northwood, in addition to Dublin Airport and Swords. When it is completed, passengers will be able to travel from O’Connell St to the airport in 19 minutes and to Swords in 31 minutes.  A more detailed and technical overview is available from the NTA.


As a northsider myself, I am keenly aware that there has been a false dawn on this before. However, with the prospect of sustainable growth, and in the context of a costed, prudent capital plan, I believe that we will see a transport solution for north Dublin that is long overdue.




I stated back in September that the first phase of the DART expansion programme will begin, with the extension of the DART line to Balbriggan.  The design and planning for the further phases, which include expansion of DART services to Maynooth in the west and Hazelhatch in the southwest, will also be progressed.


The Dart Underground Project, which remains a key element of integrated transport for the Greater Dublin Area, will be redesigned to provide a lower cost technical solution, whilst retaining the required rail connectivity.


I am pleased to say that with all of the major improvements to the Dublin public transport system due to come on line in the medium term including…


  • The opening of the Phoenix Park tunnel next year
  • Improved DART frequency
  • The opening of LUAS cross city in 2017
  • The DART expansion programme, including the bringing of the DART to Balbriggan
  • The new Metro North, and,
  • The ongoing improvement and expansion of bus services


…I believe we will get this city moving, keep this city working and make Dublin’s transport system as good as it possibly can be.




What I also believe is that we will, in ten or so years’ time, have witnessed what I call a “golden triangle” of world class infrastructure on the northside of our city that has the potential to deliver levels of growth that perhaps we were not ambitious enough to foresee.


That golden triangle will start in the city centre with our growing public transport system, which will soon include new Metro North – which will move almost 10,000 people to and from the city every hour at peak times – Luas Cross City, which will come on stream in 2017, our DART and Dublin Bus services.


It will extend to a Dublin Airport that already has plans to foster double digit growth through improved infrastructure and facilities, consolidating their position as a leading European hub airport, facilitated by the new ownership arrangements for Aer Lingus as part of the IAG group.


The triangle continues back along the world-class, world beating Port Tunnel that has rid our city of road-clogging HGVs and provided a fantastic artery for freight and public transport out of the city centre.


And it ends back near the city at Dublin Port which just a couple of weeks ago secured a €100 million commitment from the European Investment Bank to finance its Alexandra Basin Redevelopment project.


The largest single infrastructure development project in the history of Dublin Port, Dublin Port’s ABR Project, is expected to take five years to complete, costing an estimated €230 million.  For every €1 million in economic costs, the project is associated with €2.80 million in economic benefits to our city.


These are astonishing figures. These capital infrastructure projects- Metro, Airport, Tunnel and Port- when combined, are game changers for this city.


It is important we recognise this now so that we can plan properly for them and harness the huge potential they can bring.




I believe this infrastructural development can lead to Dublin taking its place as a ‘world city’, comparable not in scale to London, New York or Tokyo but certainly comparable in profile- a centre for global business, global tourism and global aviation traffic.


This investment- both public and private- will prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead. The CSO latest’s population projection for Ireland is that its population will grow from 4.8 million now to 6.7 million by 2046.


Many – if not most- of the extra 2 million people living in this country will reside in or near to Dublin. They will need transport and they will need jobs. And they will create jobs.


This kind of change is a significant example of how cities are playing an increasingly central role in leading national economic development as Benjamin Barber, the American political scientist, has written: ‘Cities are defined by connectivity and hence by motion, never by stasis, and they are driven by aspiration…declaring not their independence, but their interdependence, they build not walls but ports and portals, guildhalls and bridges’.

Dublin surely has a glorious opportunity to live this vision.




Dublin will, however, need other things- schools, hospitals and above all houses. It would be wrong of me not to allude to the very serious challenges we face in these areas.


The Government’s Capital Plan does provide for long term solutions to these problems, particularly the acute housing need that our city has. The only way to tackle homelessness is through supply of housing and there is ample evidence to show that that supply will be forthcoming.


It will, however, take time, and the interim measures currently being implemented as well as the further measures being discussed by Government will go a long way to helping those in need now.


The danger, in my view, that hangs over us- a danger that threatens our current recovery, our long term economic growth and the delivery of the infrastructure projects I have already spoken about- is the potential for political instability after the next election.


I fear that a Government that would include elements of the current Opposition would not only follow economic policies that would bankrupt the country for a second time in ten years and make public money unavailable for major projects, but also lead to a collapse in investor confidence that would also see private money flee the country for safer shores.


For that to happen, would be a tragedy for a city and a country awakening from an economic coma that it endured for far too long.




The world city with a powerhouse economy that I portrayed earlier will bring with it social benefits as well as financial ones.


I was struck at the recent launch of the Failte Ireland’s Dublin- A Breath of Fresh Air campaign, just what this city has to offer- a buzzing city with beautiful natural scenery and a rich marine environment. In attracting tourists to Dublin by promoting these things, we remind ourselves how great it is to live here.


Economic renewal can be a social breath of fresh air- a sustainably growing economy gives us choices, choices to develop and enhance amenities – to continue the roll-out of programmes like the Dublin Bikes initiative for example – and resources to invest in our communities and neighbourhoods.


That is the ultimate prize for investment and the creation of a successful Dublin- a better quality of life, not just a better standard of living.


A thriving economy that is not an end in itself, but a means to a better society.


That is the message from the Government, the message we will be taking to the people and my message to you this morning.


Thank you.