herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

Darts every 10 minutes ... but only if €20m released for transport upgrades

Dart trains could run every 10 minutes
Dart trains could run every 10 minutes

Dart services will be increased to a train every 10 minutes, but only if the Government provides additional money to the public transport companies.

It is understood that at least €20m in extra money is being sought for next year to increase frequency on the Dart line and provide extra city and commuter bus services in Dublin and key areas across the country.

Gridlock

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe wants additional funding for Public Service Obligation (PSO) contracts to improve services and prevent a return to the gridlock experienced during the boom.

Last year was the first time since 2008 that PSO payments were not cut, with almost €210m invested for the second year in a row.

Minister Paschal Donohoe
Minister Paschal Donohoe

However, the Herald has learned that a "substantial" increase is being sought - in excess of €20m.

This would fund more services, including Dart services in the capital every 10 minutes and more city bus services in Galway and Cork.

Usage of the Dart has steadily risen so far this year, and when an upgrade of the signalling system at Connolly Station is completed early next year, it will allow more Dart and rail services to operate through one of the country's busiest stations.

Capacity at the station will increase from 12 trains per hour in each direction to 20. In the meantime, longer trains are being provided at peak times.

Sources said that Mr Donohoe was "engaging" with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to secure funding in advance of the Budget next week.

Growth

It comes as figures from the National Transport Authority (NTA) show that last year Dublin Bus carried 116 million passengers, an increase of 3.4pc, while almost 30 million used Bus Eireann services (up 3.7pc).

There was pronounced growth in Cork and Galway cities, where numbers rose by 600,000 (almost 6pc) and 300,000 (up 8pc) respectively.

The numbers using trains also rose, up 3pc to 37.8 million.

"An increase in the PSO is being sought to deliver more services and help combat congestion in the growing economy," a source said.

"If we don't have the structure and services in place, it could have a negative impact on our economic development"

Upgrading Connolly will also allow trains from Kildare to operate through the Phoenix Park tunnel to the station, instead of terminating at Heuston.

Another source said there was a case to be made for an increased PSO payment to the transport companies.

"The economy is picking up, and the demand for services is growing," they said.

"Even to keep things at an equal footing, you need more funding, otherwise you're looking at fares going up, services being cut, or the operators making a deficit."

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