First proposed in 1972, plans for the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) Underground have undergone many changes over the years and last week the Irish Minister for Transport announced that it will “not proceed as currently designed” but will be redesigned to ensure a lower cost project. The DART Underground project was envisaged to extend the capacity of Dublin’s commuter rail from 33million journeys a day to 100 million and link all the existing rail, DART and Luas (Dublin Light Rail) transport links together and was slated for a cost of €3 billion with an extra €1 billion for further expansion to the wider network.
The National Transport Authority (NTA), whose remit covers the planning of public transport in the Greater Dublin Area, was requested to review the DART Underground project. Based on the outcome of the updated business case, the NTA recommended that the project, which remains a key element of integrated transport for the Greater Dublin Area, be redesigned to provide a lower cost technical solution, whilst retaining the required rail connectivity.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe T.D said: ‘As Government works to further stabilize the public finances, we must continue to seek the best value for taxpayers’ money in everything we do. 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. … I will seek, within the resources available in the next Capital Plan, to provide funds to progress the redesign and planning of the project. In the interest of advancing the development of our rail network so that it better meets the needs of commuters, I also informed Government that I intend to progress elements of the overall DART Expansion Programme which bring value in themselves, subject to appropriate business cases and the availability of funding.”
A promotional video for the DART Underground from 2010
Reported in the Irish Times, the lead opposition party Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Timmy Dooley said the decision was; “ a major setback for the greater Dublin area and the economy. This project would yield huge economic benefits for the country and transform our public transport network for commuters.” Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said it was regrettable that some €40 million had been spent on a “vital” transport project that was now being pushed off into the next decade.
Editor’s Comment: With the DART Underground off the books until likely sometime beyond 2020, and who knows what the financial and political landscape there will be then, there’s a possibility we will never see it. What is more likely is the continued piecemeal expansion of the Dublin transport network, rather than a grand plan of infrastructure investment. In line with this Minister Donohoe did announce that the DART Line will be extended to Balbirggan by 2022 and that aspects of the overall Dart expansion plan will proceed when funds are available including electrification. Those plans from 1972 look like they are going back onto the shelves.
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