herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Dart Underground at risk as deadline for planning looms despite €50m spend

Paschal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe

The Dart Underground project is at risk of losing planning permission if Government funding is not made available in the coming weeks.

The ambitious project, which would see the country's first underground transport network, has a deadline of September 24 for Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to be carried out along the proposed route.

If the CPOs - for around 450 properties - are not activated, planning permission will lapse.

The Dart Underground tunnels will be approximately 7.6km in length and will connect the Northern and Kildare rail lines.

Plans to build the infrastructure, which the National Transport Authority (NTA) has described as the "missing link" in the city's transport infrastructure, were postponed in 2011 due to a funding shortfall.

Some €50m has been spent on the project, but now its fate hangs in the balance as Irish Rail awaits the go-ahead from the Department of Transport.

A spokesman for Irish Rail confirmed to the Herald that if the funding was not provided, the current order for the project would be allowed to lapse.

READ MORE: Dan White: It's time to bury the Dart Underground plan permanently

The plans include underground stations at Spencer Dock, Pearse Street, St Stephen's Green, Christchurch and Heuston Station, as well as a new surface Dart station at Inchicore.

Spending

A decision is expected to be made within weeks by Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe as to whether the project will be included in his upcoming capital spending program.

Another key decision for the city will also be made as a solution to the transport discrepancy between Dublin and Fingal is also to be included in the Budget.

A heavy rail link from Dublin city centre to the airport has been touted as the preferred option over Metro North and a Luas link, but Mr Donohoe refuses to be drawn on his pick of the options on the table.

In a matter of weeks Mr Donohoe will seek Cabinet approval for a new round of capital investment, which will include an upgraded link to the north of Dublin.

"We have to come up with a route that delivers two objectives. It has to deliver a significant time improvement on any other option and the second thing that is important is capacity," he said.

The NTA has shortlisted six options for a link to Swords and the airport, including a cheaper version of the previously shelved Metro North. Other options on the table include a Luas link, Bus Rapid Transport corridors and a combination option, which will be a Dart from Clongriffin to the airport and a Luas from Cabra to Swords.

The NTA has prepared a cost benefit analysis of all of the possible solutions, which have been whittled down from a list of 25.

There has been much speculation on what will be selected, but despite repeated questions the minister has refused to be drawn. A spokesman for Mr Donohoe said that his comments on speed and capacity were not related to a specific preference as he was speaking generally about the criteria.

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