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Underground Dart line mothballed for 20 years, according to updated Dublin transport strategy

The strategy includes proposals for the long-awaited Metrolink from Swords to Charlemont.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Updated Nov 9th 2021, 2:00 PM

PLANS FOR AN underground Dart line in Dublin have been shelved until at least 2042, according to a revised National Transport Authority (NTA) strategy.

Published this morning for public consultation, the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area will cost an estimated €25 billion over the next 20 years.

It sets out proposals for improving cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in the capital and transitioning the Dublin bus and commuter rail fleet to electric by 2035 in a bid to cut emissions.

It also includes proposals for the long-awaited Metrolink from Swords to Charlemont in Dublin 6, planning permission for which will be sought next year.

However, the scheme is not expected to be operational until after 2031, according to the strategy.

Meanwhile, proposals for an underground Dart line  — linking Heuston Station to the Dart service — have been pushed out beyond the scope of the 20-year programme.

The scheme originally received planning permission in 2010 but was “not brought forward at the time primarily due to funding constraints and also due to the potential to utilise the Phoenix Park Tunnel for passenger service”, according to the NTA’s revised strategy.

“Since then, the Phoenix Park Tunnel link has been brought into operational service, providing connectivity from the Kildare line to the city centre stations of Connolly, Tara and Pearse.” 

However, the NTA said it was “satisfied” that the need for an additional heavy rail line through Dublin City Centre will arise over the “longer term”.

As such, it said the plans will “be preserved and protected” to allow its future delivery after 2042.

Additionally, the strategy outlines plans to deliver four new Luas lines — to Finglas, Lucan, Poolbeg and Bray — between 2031 and 2042.

Design work will also commence on eight further extensions serving:

  • Clongriffin
  • Balgriffin            
  • Tyrellstown
  • Blanchardstown
  • Clondalkin
  • Tallaght/Kimmage
  • Tallaght/Knocklyon
  • UCD/Sandyford

Commenting on the publication of the strategy, Anne Graham, chief executive of the NTA said, “As far as NTA is concerned, the single biggest step that can be taken to tackle climate change is to encourage as many people as possible to use public transport and other sustainable modes, rather than the private car.

“In broad terms, our Strategy will facilitate this by investing in services and infrastructure, now and into the future.

“We in the NTA want to play our part and we want to lead by example, and we will do that by transitioning our public transport fleet away from fossil fuel to low and zero-emission technologies. This process is already under way, and when complete in 2035 will result in a massive reduction in public transport emissions.”

Political reaction

There has been widespread political reaction to the strategy, with Tánaiste and Business Minister Leo Varadkar saying that it only represented the beginning of a public consultation which “has not been approved by government”. 

He told RTÉ’s News and One that improvements to cycling and pedestrian facilities and increasing the frequency of existing rail lines was being prioritised over the forthcoming few years. 

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“In relation to Metro, this is a huge project it is going to take time and it is going to be expensive, our timeline is that it goes to planning and railway order next year,” he said. 

We’d hope to go to tender and financial flows in ’23 and then beginning construction in ’24 or ’25 and realistically it will take five or six years to be able to test and commission.  

Various opposition parties have criticised the new strategy in the context of last week’s Climate Action Plan which has targeted a 42-50% decrease in transport emissions by 2030.

“The government has failed at the first hurdle with regards to reaching the targets that were set out in the Climate Action Plan, which they launched just last week,” People Before Profit’s Paul Murphy TD said this morning.

Transport is our second biggest emitting sector, the targets are between 42-50% reductions by 2030. And yet many of the big public transport infrastructural projects are now being postponed, put on the long finger.

He added: “The ambition is simply to move people from petrol or diesel private cars into electric private cars, as opposed to the massive modal shift in terms of the nature of transport that people take.”

Labour’s Ivana Bacik TD said the longer timeline was a “grave disappointment” and that the government needed to provide details about how exactly Ireland will meet the cut to transport emissions that’s being targeted. 

Catherine Murphy TD of the Social Democrats said that the continued expansion of Dublin and commuter towns needed to see a corresponding increase in transport services. 

“There’s been over €200 million spent on Metrolink and Dart Interconnector, it’s well over €200 million without delivering anything. You can’t keep on expanding the footprint of a city, which has happened in the greater Dublin area without providing a comparable ability for people to move around,” she said. 

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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