WORK COULD begin on two underground systems in Dublin next year, following support at the weekend by Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey for Iarnród Éireann’s proposed “Dart Underground” interconnector linking the city’s main stations.
Mr Dempsey last week came out in support of Metro North, just hours before the public inquiry for the project was told construction could begin as soon as early next year and be complete by 2015.
Yesterday the Minister declared strong support for Dart Underground, which is now to run from Inchicore via Heuston Station, the south inner-city and Pearse Street to the Docklands. Mr Dempsey remarked the State “can’t afford not to” proceed with the project.
Metro North is projected to cater for 35 million passengers when it opens. Dart Underground is predicted to treble existing capacity in the Dart and suburban network from a current 33 million passenger journeys per year to more than 100 million passengers.
Both are to be developed as public private partnerships.
The two underground systems are not inter-operable and will run on different gauge rails.
Spokesmen for the transport companies said yesterday this was not an issue, commenting that passengers would not care about the width between the wheels as long as they could connect easily from one system to another.
Tom Manning, of the Railway Procurement Agency, said passengers would be able to travel the entire rail network, as they could switch between Metro, Luas and Dart Underground at St Stephen’s Green, and between Metro and suburban rail at Drumcondra.
Barry Kenny of Irish Rail also stressed the “inter-connectivity” at St Stephen’s Green and Drumcondra, and added that mainline intercity rails would also be brought into the network at Heuston and Pearse.
Mr Kenny announced the extension of the proposed Dart Underground tunnel to Inchicore, which he said would dramatically reduce the impact of the tunnel’s development on existing rail services during the construction phase by avoiding the crucial Heuston area.
This would also cut down on property acquisition and offer potential for a new station at Inchicore.
The second high capacity Dart line through the heart of the city centre would facilitate services from Balbriggan or Howth to Inchicore or Hazelhatch and Maynooth to Bray or Greystones.
Crossing the city, Dart Underground would interchange with the Luas and Metro, enjoy capacity of up to 20 trains per hour, and dramatically increase frequency and capacity for commuters on the other Dart, Northern, Maynooth and Kildare lines.
Welcoming the revised proposals at the weekend, Mr Dempsey said: “Even in these difficult times I firmly believe in the importance of planning, and delivering quality public transport alternatives for the future. We can’t afford not to.
“The new Dart Underground is a critical piece of urban, regional and national infrastructure. It will make an enormous difference to thousands of people every day once it is in place.”