Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey last night informed CIÉ that it will have to drop ambitious plans for a heavy rail hub at Broadstone in Dublin in favour of a Luas line under the aegis of the Rail Procurement Agency (RPA), The Irish Times has established.
The key Broadstone depot - located a short distance from the quays in the northside of the city - has been the subject of what has been, in effect, a "turf war" between CIÉ and the RPA. Both agencies have wrangled over how it should be utilised in the future - at one stage CIÉ denied the other transport agency access to the site, prompting then minister Martin Cullen to make a personal intervention.
The site was earmarked for a Luas-type operation as far back as 1996 with plans to set up a new extension using the old Broadstone railway alignment, which is no longer in use.
But last summer, CIÉ submitted an alternative plan for Broadstone as a transport hub for heavy-duty rail. The blueprint was ambitious in scope.
Broadstone would become a new rail depot that would serve intercity trains from Galway along with commuter services from Maynooth, Navan and Kildare.
CIÉ said the expansion of Broadstone was vital to cater for significant expansion in rail services and huge increases in passenger numbers. It would also ease the pressure on Connolly Station.
But The Irish Times has learned that Mr Dempsey wrote to all the transport agencies yesterday informing them that he intends to allow the RPA to proceed with planning the Luas line along the agreed alignment using Broadstone.
In the letter, Mr Dempsey also mandated CIÉ to make an early application for planning permission to retain its dockland station on a permanent basis.
The dockland station was expected to be operational for 10 years but the upshot of Mr Dempsey's decision is that it will now be made permanent, and will become the station catering for commuter services from Maynooth, Navan and Kildare.
The Minister's decision was based on a study he commissioned from specialist consultants Booz Hamilton Allen (BHA) on the CIÉ plans.
Using traffic projection models, BHA concluded that a heavy-rail depot at Broadstone was not required and that a permanent dockland railway station would comfortably accommodate commuter rail services.
The CIÉ plans were predicated on projected population increases based on Central Statistics Office data.
However, BHA concluded that even with the largest projected increase in rail traffic, a heavy rail hub at Broadstone, was not required.
The Irish Times