One of the features of Dublin's future transport infrastructure that is proposed in the National Transport Authority's (NTA) 'Transport Strategy for the GDA 2016-2035' is implementation of the full DART Expansion Programme. The DART Expansion Programme comprises several elements including: extensively extending electrification of the rail network around the capital city; purchasing new rail fleet; and constructing some new infrastructure, notably the underground interconnector project about which the Deputy is enquiring.
The recently published National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2027 sets out the Government capital investment priorities for the coming decade. One of the many transport investments that we intend to undertake nationwide within that 10-year period is delivery of the priority elements of the overall DART Expansion Programme. These are the elements that the NTA has identified for priority delivery, and they are the non-tunnel elements of the Expansion Programme. The NTA's rationale is that, by sequencing these investments ahead of the tunnel element of the Programme, they will enable the investment benefits to be realised most quickly for the passenger through the speedier introduction of various important service improvements that will benefit the travelling public. Also, by optimising the delivery of both passenger and network benefits through a large NDP capital investment that builds first on optimising the existing rail infrastructure (including the Phoenix Park Tunnel), there should also be better value for money for the taxpayer.
The priority elements of the DART Expansion Programme that are scheduled for delivery within the NDP's 10-year horizon include:
- completion of the city centre re-signalling project, which allows more train movements across critical parts of the rail network and thereby allows for more and quicker services;
- investment in new train fleet, including a planned move to hybrid diesel-electric trains that can run on both the electrified and non-electrified parts of the rail network and thereby allow passenger services to be upgraded earlier (e.g. introducing higher frequency timetables) without having to wait until the electrification project is fully completed; and
- electrification of existing lines to create a full metropolitan area DART network for Dublin with all of the lines linked and connected.
The NDP investment in DART Expansion will focus on delivery of non-underground tunnel elements of the Programme, in order to provide significantly enhanced services on the existing rail network including better using the recently opened rail link and existing connector tunnel under the Phoenix Park. It will enable additional passenger services to be put in place much earlier using existing infrastructure with some enhancements. This integrated rail network will provide a core, high-capacity transit system for the region and will deliver a very substantial increase in peak-hour capacity on all lines from Drogheda, Maynooth, Celbridge/Hazelhatch and Greystones.
The remaining element of the overall DART Expansion Programme - the DART Underground Tunnel - is not scheduled for delivery within the period of the present NDP. However, over that time, it is envisaged that the route for the proposed project will be established and protected to allow for its future delivery.