THE PROPOSED “Dart Underground” line linking Heuston Station with Spencer Dock took a step closer to reality yesterday when Iarnród Éireann flagged it in the EU’s Official Journal.
Describing the notice as the first phase “in what is set to be a year of major significance in the development of Dart Underground”, the rail company stated that an application for a Railway Order for the project is due to be lodged next month.
Dart Underground is to be procured as a public private partnership (PPP) project, and the publication of an indicative notice outlining its scope and duration is the first stage of a competitive process to select a private sector partner.
The proposed 7.6km line will run through Dublin, with underground stations at Heuston, Christchurch, St Stephen’s Green, Westland Row and Spencer Dock as well as a new station at surface level in Inchicore.
According to Iarnród Éireann, Dart Underground “will, for the first time, link all rail systems together into an integrated and cohesive network”. This would include the northern, Kildare and Maynooth commuter lines, the existing Dart line, intercity services, Luas and Metro.
Twin tunnels, each containing a single track, will be excavated at an average depth of 24m (nearly 80ft) below ground level. The tunnel entrances will be at Inchicore and in the Docklands.
The project would facilitate two high-capacity Dart lines, proposed as Drogheda/Howth to Hazelhatch and Maynooth to Greystones. Dart trains on the northern line would bypass Connolly Station, enter the tunnel at Docklands and emerge at Inchicore. Iarnród Éireann said this would free up Connolly Station, currently a major bottleneck, and facilitate a new high-frequency Dart line “with greatly increased capacity from Maynooth through Connolly and all the way to Greystones”.
With trains operating “up to every three minutes”, it said the project — a key element of Transport 21 — “will complete the transformation of the Greater Dublin Area’s rail service capacity from 33 million passenger journeys annually now to over 100 million passenger journeys.”
Iarnród Éireann said it intended to publish a contract notice in the EU’s Official Journal in the second quarter of 2010, which would set out a process to “pre-qualify” potential private partners who would be invited to tender.
Interested parties who register their interest will receive the Dart Underground market consultation brochure, which includes a questionnaire and invites views on the scope and procurement of the contract. Replies are due by March 4th.
Iarnród Éireann has prepared a “reference design” to support its application for a Railway Order at the end of March. It said that addressing regulatory and planning issues early in the procurement process would provide greater certainty to bidders.
Under the PPP contract, the successful private partner would be responsible for the design, construction, financing, commissioning, operation and maintenance of the tunnel, stations and associated facilities over 25 to 35 years.