I propose to take Questions Nos. 250 and 251 together.
As the Deputy is aware, the National Transport Authority's (NTA) "Transport Strategy for the GDA 2016-2035" proposes implementation of the overall DART Expansion Programme. The Government’s budgetary framework for capital investment, "Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021", funding was allocated to progress a number of key public transport projects in the NTA's strategy including the DART Expansion Programme.
The DART Expansion Programme has a key role to play in delivering an efficient transport system. When fully implemented the enhancements to the heavy rail system provided for in the NTA's Transport Strategy, will create a full metropolitan area DART network for Dublin with all of the lines linked and connected. This integrated rail network will provide the 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 original cost of the overall DART Expansion Programme (including the DART Underground Tunnel element) was estimated at €4 billion, of which €3 billion was in respect of the tunnel as originally designed. The Government decided in September 2015 that the original proposal for the tunnel should be redesigned to provide a lower cost solution. The NTA has been working with Irish Rail on a revised proposal. In the meantime and enabled by significant investment to upgrade signalling and turn-back facilities in the critical city centre area, work was undertaken to upgrade and re-open the Phoenix Park Tunnel in late 2016. This was identified by the NTA as an opportunity in the short term, at modest cost, to bring commuters from the west and south west to the city centre and beyond, and to enable enhanced integration of public transport services for the passenger.
Following the Mid-Term Review of Capital priorities, Budget 2018 increased the multi-annual capital investment funding envelopes for the coming four-year period, including providing an enhanced capital envelope of €2.7 billion for Ireland's public transport investment between 2018 and 2021. This enhanced capital envelope includes funding in the order of €230 million for mainline rail and DART capacity enhancement and will allow acceleration of the initial stages of the overall DART Expansion Programme, focussing particularly at this stage on providing additional fleet to enhance capacity, and extending the electrified DART system. Specifically, it will allow substantial progress on electrification of the Northern rail line as far as Balbriggan - now expected to be delivered in 2022 - and commencing work on the Maynooth line. Planning for longer term investment will form part of the National Development Plan which is the Government's overall 10-year investment plan which we will be launching later this week alongside the new National Planning Framework for the period to 2040.