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Does Dublin 'urgently' need Dart Underground?

The project has been delayed as “lower cost technical solution” is found.

Updated 9.04pm

4/9/2014 Trains on the Tracks Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been criticised for shelving plans for an underground Dart line for the time being, with the opposition arguing that Dublin ‘urgently’ needs its infrastructure to be improved.

The original plans for the line, referred to previously as the Interconnector, have been scrapped while a “lower cost technical solution” for the project.

Minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed this afternoon that the project will “not proceed as currently designed”.

DART_Underground (1) A map of one section of the Dart Underground, which was online at IrishRail.ie as late as this month. Source: Irish Rail

However, the Dart line will be extended up to Balbriggan in north Dublin, and is expected to be in place by 2022.

Other work will be carried out to “increase frequency of existing services”, Irish Rail said, and the electrification of other lines.

The projected cost of the Dart expansion project was €4 billion, €3 billion of which was dedicated to the underground project.

The decision on the underground line has been taken following a review of the plan by the National Transport Authority (NTA), who recommended that the project be redesigned with a view to finding this lower cost solution.

“We must continue to seek the best value for taxpayers’ money in everything we do,” transport minister Paschal Donohoe said in a statement.

15/7/2015. Government to Sell Aer Lingus Shares Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

A project of such magnitude – in the order of €4 billion – has to be designed and delivered in a way that best ensures cost effectiveness for the taxpayer and the State.

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley said the decision was “extremely short-sighted”.

“It amounts to the government making policy on the hoof,” the transport spokesperson continued.

“Irish Rail has put significant resources and time behind progressing this project and €40m of public money has been spent on it to date.”

23/11/2010 Fianna Fail Leadership Crisis Timmy Dooley Source: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

The Minister’s assertion today that he remains ‘unconvinced’ of the business case for the project is quite remarkable, given that officials both in his Department and at the National Transport Authority  have continually described the project as ‘the missing link” required to connect the existing rail lines in Dublin and unlock the capacity of the existing rail infrastructure.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said Dublin’s infrastructure urgently needs the underground line:

Surely the urgency of a decent transport infrastructure for an international capital city and its environs should be prioritised.

“Only last week we had traffic chaos which almost brought the city to a standstill following a fire in the Port Tunnel because we have an over-dependence on private cars,” she added.

The NTA has apparently recommended that the tunnel element of the scheme could be delivered at a reduced cost from what was previously envisaged.

Donohoe said that he will seek to provide the funding necessary for the project in the next Capital Plan, which is due in 2016.

While the news may not sound overly positive Irish Rail have “welcomed” the support of the government and NTA in a statement.

Source: Iarnrod Eireann/YouTube

A 2010 Irish Rail video outlining the project.

“In particular we welcome the intention announced by the Minister for Transport to progress the Dart Expansion Programme through funding for the redesign of the revised Dart Underground and other elements of the Dart Expansion programme,” the statement said.

The latter part of that statement refers to the simultaneous announcement today that extension of the Dart’s northside line as far as Balbriggan is to be greenlit.

It had been envisaged that the Dart Underground project would have extended the passenger capacity of Dublin’s commuter rail services to 100 million journeys yearly from 33 million.

The ambitious scheme was to have established was to have linked all rail, DART and Luas services in the capital.

Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan. Originally published 3.11pm

Read: Whatever happened to the plans to link Dublin Airport and Dublin city?

Read: After 10 weeks off, TDs came back and started rowing almost immediately

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