Dart services set to increase but journey times will now be longer than before
A major expansion of city Dart services is expected within the coming weeks, despite threats of industrial action.
Dart services will be increased from every 15 minutes to every 10 minutes on weekdays on its core network, and will also start running earlier in the morning.
Under the plans, the first Dart services would depart from Malahide at 5.50am (currently it is 6.30am), at 6am from Howth (current start time 6.05am) and at 5.35am from Bray (currently it is 5.40am).
However, Iarnrod Eireann spokesman Barry Kenny said that journey times would increase slightly - by two to three minutes on average for typical journeys. That's because there will be more trains in the system and the need for spacing of trains on the network.
"We saw an 8pc increase in the number of Dart passengers in 2015," he told the Herald.
"We have a growing economy again and the pressure of congestion, so there is a need for the increased services.
"We are going towards the finalisation of preparing our schedules, so we do hope to introduce that early this year," he said.
The changes have been subject to public consultation and they will require the final approval of the National Transport Authority (NTA). "Our review of the public consultation with the NTA is at an advanced stage," Mr Kenny said.
The core route - which will see an increase to every 10 minutes - will be the Darts from Bray to the Howth junction.
Each alternate Dart goes to Howth or Malahide. Before, it would be every 30 minutes to Howth and every 30 minutes to Malahide, but now it will be every 20 minutes to both those destinations, so they will benefit also.
However, last week Dart drivers agreed to ballot on industrial action.
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said strike action would begin on January 31 if Irish Rail went ahead with the new plan.
Separately, the body is working with the Government's 1916 group and all of the transport operators to ensure that capacity right across the network - Dart commuter and intercity services - will be maximised to ensure that they can meet the demands.
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that a Leap family ticket will be introduced in time for the 1916 commemoration events in Dublin city.
Anne Graham, the chief executive of the National Transport Authority, told the Herald that it was always working towards trying to make public transport journeys attractive.
"Obviously, we will be looking at fare structures. We are always looking to see if we can make fare structures fairer," she said.
"We are introducing a Leap family ticket. It will be for bus and rail and light rail," she said. "The family tickets will apply to two adults and up to four kids."
"They will be available at the end of March," Ms Graham said.
"We hope that if anyone is attending the events around 1916, that they would use public transport.
"We are planning to have as much public transport available as possible - particularly over the two days of Easter Sunday and Easter Monday - to make it easier for people to travel, " she said.
The cost of public transport, particularly for families, has previously been highlighted as one of the reasons contributing to private car use in the city.
Separately, there are plans to make it easier to pay for Leap Card.
"We hope to be introducing an app later on this month that will allow you to top-up your Leap card using a NFC (near field communications) enabled mobile phone," Ms Graham said.
Android phones usually have that have this facility, she said.
Meanwhile, she said that the NTA was delighted to see that public transport numbers were growing.
"We have seen growth across all the different modes, which is great to see. However, it also poses challenges as we have to meet this increased demand for travel by public transport.
"So we would be looking to try and provide additional bus and rail services," she said.