PLANS to build a €2bn underground DART tunnel through Dublin city centre will go ahead despite the economic downturn.
The Government has told Iarnrod Eireann that its plans for a 5.2km "interconnector" linking Heuston Station to the Dublin Docklands is to proceed as planned, and the project is expected to be delivered by its 2015 deadline -- a year after Metro North is completed.
Yesterday a spokesman for the rail company said the interconnector was the main priority over the coming years and it expected to seek planning permission in autumn 2009.
Physical work is expected to begin in late 2010, with a five-year construction timeframe.
There had been concerns that the project could have been delayed given the precarious state of the Government's finances. However, Iarnrod Eireann last night said it had been told to proceed as planned, and that it would be hosting four open days so the public could see the final route.
"DART Underground is a core part of Transport 21, and the Transport Minister and his Department have made it clear to us that the delivery of this project is their number one priority for Iarnrod Eireann. It's full steam ahead," the spokesman said.
"For such a crucial project for the public transport needs of the city, we want all those living along the route, and those who will benefit from it in the wider community, to be able to examine the plans, and see the service frequency and capacity benefits which will result. These public meetings are the first of many in the months ahead, to ensure that all have the opportunity to see the route, and have their say."
The interconnector, in effect a second DART line, will run underground through the heart of the city and link the Northern line to the Kildare line, with underground stops at Docklands, Pearse Station, St Stephen's Green, Christchurch and Heuston.
It will be a vital piece of infrastructure and will see the DART extended to the Northern, Maynooth and Kildare commuter lines and allow train users to travel from Cork to Belfast without leaving Iarnrod Eireann property.
The first DART line will run from Maynooth/Pace to Connolly Station, Pearse Station, Bray and Greystones, while the second line will run from Howth/Northern Line and serve Clontarf Road, Docklands, Pearse, St Stephen's Green, Christchurch, Heuston and terminate in Hazelhatch.
Passenger numbers on DART and commuter services will increase from 33m today to over 100m on completion. It also links all rail modes -- DART, Commuter, Intercity, Luas and Metro -- to form an integrated cohesive network.
The information meetings take place on four dates from 5pm to 8pm. Today's meeting is in the Ashling Hotel on Parkgate St, while another will take place tomorrow at the Central Hotel on Exchequer Street.
Another two meetings are next week. The first on August 19 at St Mary's Youth Club on Strangford Road and the second the following day at the Alexander Hotel on Merrion Square.