THE Dart looks set to arrive in Drogheda after the government decided to extend Iarnród Éireann's Northern Line electrification project to the Co Louth town.
The move is the second major change to the government's plans for the Dublin commuter rail network under Transport 21 confirmed in the run-up to June's local elections.
Last week, transport minister Noel Dempsey announced the proposed Dart underground tunnel, which was originally meant to run between Heuston and Docklands stations, was to be extended westwards to Inchicore.
Under the government's original plans, Balbriggan was to be the northern terminus of the new Dart line running to Hazelhatch, Co Kildare.
Although Iarnród Éireann has long held ambitions to extend the Dart to Drogheda, the government had previously refused to sanction funding for the project.
But the government has now decided to allow the company to extend the electrification project by a further 10 miles to encompass Drogheda.
"The line will be electrified to Drogheda and the town will be a Dart terminus," said an Iarnród Éireann spokesman. "We also plan to partially convert the current commuter railcar depot in Drogheda into a Dart depot."
Drogheda-based TD Fergus O'Dowd, who has mounted a long-running campaign to get the Dart extended to the town, said the news was fantastic. "Drogheda has really become a suburb of Dublin in recent years and the Dart's arrival should improve transport links between the two towns," he said.
The move has also been welcomed by rail passenger representatives who believe the extension will add little to the overall cost of the project as it removes the need to build new terminus facilities at Balbriggan.
"Balbriggan was a far from ideal choice for a terminus due to the lack of land available. Drogheda makes much more sense," said Mark Gleeson of Rail Users Ireland.
Gleeson said the move would necessitate a review of the Dublin region's fares structure. Currently, a train ticket from Balbriggan to Dublin costs €4.30 whereas the equivalent fare from Drogheda is €13.50.