On the ground, there are signs that a metro station is planned for Ballymun Road.
“You go out there at midnight and they’re out there with surveying instruments, and X-rays and ultrasounds,” says Paul Cusack of the Ballymun Road and Area Residents Association.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s (TII’s) current plans, revealed back in March 2019, would put the Metrolink’s Collins Avenue Station under the lawn of Our Lady of Victories Church on Ballymun Road.
They would also mean building a vent shaft in Albert College Park, down the road, to accommodate the underground structure.
It would be one of 16 stations on the proposed underground that would run from Estuary in the northern edge of Swords through Dublin Airport and Stephen’s Green, to Charlemont by the Grand Canal.
Residents say they’ve no issue with having a station in their neighbourhood – but they are worried, they say, that their preference for where it goes has been dismissed without enough consultation.
“It wasn’t consultation, it was more, ‘It’s our way and this is the way that is going to be,’” says Cusack, about a second round of public consultation, some information days that were held in March by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).
In September, a post on the Metrolink website said that it was developing the designs, and making some changes to the preferred routes based on feedback.
“Over the coming months we will publish on a rolling basis the proposed changes and invite you to comment on them,” the post says.
What’s the Problem?
For some residents, it’s building the shaft in Albert College Park that they object to.
“Our concern is that we’re never going to get one inch of parkland back and therefore it shouldn’t be given away without people being consulted,” says Ruth Carty, of the Griffith Avenue and District Residents Association (GADRA).
Local residents weren’t properly consulted on this above-ground shaft structure that is planned for Albert College Park, Carty says.
“We made contact immediately when they announced their preferred route, which was last March,” she says.
They were looking for more details than the 17 words in the information booklet saying they were putting a shaft in, she says.
GADRA got a response from the TII two working days before they closed public consultation, on 22 May. The response confirmed that this was going to be an above-ground structure in the park.
“They have been telling people in the open days that it will just be a grill in the ground so at that stage, with only two days left in the public consultation nobody knew that it was as big as it is and that it was above ground,” says Carty.
A spokesperson for TII said the shaft was shown on a map and in a brochure. They’re working on a design and will post that and invite public comment shortly, they said.
GADRA believes that during TII’s public consultations, residents were not given sufficient information on what changes would be made to their park, says Carty.
A second concern – this time with the location of the station itself under the lawn of Our Lady of Victories Church on Ballymun Road – is around of the possible impact on Albert College Court, an apartment complex for elderly people beside the church.
“There is serious doubt if the senior citizens could continue to live in that area. Not just temporarily but permanently because of the tunnel wall,” says Cusack of the Ballymun Road and Area Residents Association.
TII’s map, which details the route of the tunnel, shows that the underground station wall will be beside the boundary walls of the Albert College Court premises.
A spokesperson for TII said that it was currently doing an environmental assessment of the impact on this property at both the construction and operational. The results and any mitigation measures will go in the environmental impact statement, they said.
During a seven-week consultation period earlier this year, Metrolink got 991 submissions in relation to impacts at the proposed Collins Avenue station, all of which are associated with impacts on Our Lady of Victories church and the adjacent school.
That was the second largest number for an area, a Metrolink report says.
Traffic Concerns, Too
The current plans would put the Collins Avenue station directly beside Ballymun Road.
Some residents say they’re worried that the area around it wouldn’t be able to cope with traffic during the construction period.
“There is going to be a huge disruption to the area, which is already a very busy area, in terms of schools, in terms of traffic and with the church admittedly on Sundays,” says Cusack.
An average of 34,632 cars use the Ballymun Road every day according to thelatest TII data.
“Available traffic lanes will be halved, and we are fearful as to the impact that this will have on traffic flow,” says a joint letter to TII from the Ballymun Road Area Association and Albert College Residents Association.
That could cause complete gridlock for large parts of the working day for the north city area, it says.
Some local residents say there is another option, a better one. The Collins Avenue station could be moved 500m down the Ballymun Road to Albert College Park, says Cusack.
In other words, rather than putting a shaft there, they could put the station there, underground.
“We had been pushing them to put it in the park and reinstate the park over it,” says Cusack. “This is not new, this was open for consideration from the last time.”
In 2007, the Railway Procurement Agency, drew up the first plans for the Metrolink. One of their proposed locations for the Collins Avenue station was under the north-west side of Albert College Park.
The Ballymun Road and Area Residents Association’s letter to the TII says that traffic delays and disruption to the local area would be reduced because construction could be kept within the park, and not spill out onto nearby roads.
Some residents say they feel that there isn’t enough dialogue happening between them and the TII to find solutions.
“We’ve not met them, we’ve never been invited, they keep telling us that they will meet us,” says Cusack. But so far, that’s only been at the general public open days.
A spokesperson for TII said that once they have the Collins Avenue Station design, they “will be in a position to meet with stakeholders in the area”.
[UPDATE: This article was updated on 13 November at 18.08 to include responses from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).]