As the Deputy is aware, the National Transport Authority has responsibility for ensuring the development and delivery of public transport infrastructure in the greater Dublin area, including, in consultation with Iarnród Éireann, the provision of rail fleet.
Public transport passenger numbers have increased in recent years, reflecting broader economic and employment growth. Rail passenger numbers have similarly increased across the network, in particular on the commuter network in the greater Dublin area. These increases are welcome. However, they clearly place pressure on the capacity of the network and the National Transport Authority, NTA, and Iarnród Éireann are continuing to make service and infrastructure improvements to address these pressures.
In recent years, new services were introduced on the Kildare line using the reopened Phoenix Park tunnel. These services have provided additional capacity on this important commuter corridor. In September this year, the DART moved towards a ten-minute service during the core operating day. Since the introduction of the new services, the NTA and Iarnród Éireann have monitored the impact on the broader commuter network and made adjustments as necessary in response to any identified issues. A number of additional services in the morning peak on the north side of the network have recently been approved and will provide additional capacity. Additionally, by the end of this month all peak-time DART services will be operated using six-car or eight-car train sets, which will provide a moderate increase in capacity. December's revised timetable will see additional off-peak capacity added to the Kildare, Maynooth and northern lines, providing passengers with additional travel options throughout the day.
While these are all immediate measures which will enhance overall capacity, other medium-term and long-term measures are required. Key to these measures is the provision of additional rail fleet. In the medium term, it had been hoped to refurbish a number of older train sets with a view to their reintroduction to service. However, following a tender process the overall cost of the refurbishment tripled as compared with initial estimates and the refurbishment proposal simply does not represent value for money.
The need for additional rail fleet remains, however, and the NTA and Iarnród Éireann have begun a process of identifying the potential of acquiring second-hand rail fleet, either through lease or purchase. The Deputy will be aware that this is complicated by the fact that the Irish rail network operates to a different gauge than those of the UK and most other European countries, and any second-hand vehicles would require modification for Irish use.
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A decision on the viability of the second-hand vehicle option approach will be made by the end of this year, following market availability analysis and procurement options analysis.
In the longer term and as part of the DART expansion programme generally, there is a need to significantly increase the fleet in any event. Work on developing tender documentation and train specifications for the proposed bimodal fleet of rail vehicles is progressing. The formal procurement notice seeking interested train manufacturers is expected to issue before the year's end and a formal contract for the new fleet is expected to be signed in 2019.
As the Deputy can see, a number of immediate short-term, medium-term and longer-term measures are under way which are designed to deal with the increased numbers of passengers availing of rail services. The Deputy is aware that investment in the greater Dublin area commuter rail network is a key priority of the Government, as reflected in the inclusion of the DART expansion programme in the national development plan, NDP, and an indicative funding allocation of €2 billion over the next ten years.