In 2014/2015, Iarnród Éireann prepared a new business case for the DART Expansion Programme and DART Underground Project. This was requested by the National Transport Authority to update the previous 2010 business case given significantly different economic circumstances and revised national demographic projections.
The economic appraisal indicates that the DART Expansion Programme will deliver significant net economic benefits to the Greater Dublin Area and Ireland, with benefits more than offsetting the capital costs (benefit to cost ratio of 1.4:1). This is considered a medium level economic return given the scale of the project.
In September 2015, the Government endorsed the wider DART Expansion Programme as a key element of the integrated transport network for the Greater Dublin Area and essential for efficient public transport in the region. Iarnród Éireann has been requested to examine the current DART Underground Reference Design with an objective of delivering a lower cost technical solution, whilst retaining the required rail connectivity for the DART Expansion Programme.
Iarnród Éireann is currently conducting this technical review and considering a number of options, which include the following considerations:
- The configuration of the underground tunnel, i.e. large single bore to accommodate twin rail lines or smaller twin bores, each accommodating a single track;
- The optimal connection point of the tunnelled section to the Cork Line, either at Inchicore or Heuston;
- The termination of tunnels underground beneath Pearse Station or continuation of tunnelling to connect with the Belfast Line in the north Docklands area;
- The immediate provision of stations, exclusion of stations from the scheme or phased completion of stations to reduce costs whilst meeting projected passenger demands.
All options will be considered for cost savings, whilst weighed against the objectives of DART Underground and DART Expansion, to ensure any design modifications meet projected passenger demands and do not adversely impact the long term aspirations of an expanded heavy rail network within the Greater Dublin Area.
The technical review is programmed for completion in 2017. As this review proceeds other options or scenarios may emerge which could lead to other potential cost savings.
The goal of this review is to ensure the project is in a position to proceed from 2020 subject to funding.
DART Expansion and National Policy
DART Expansion is included in the projects recommended by the National Transport Authority’s Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area.
The development of an expanded electrified DART system, as part of an integrated public transport system for the Greater Dublin Area, is fully consistent with a wide range of National Policies, from a transport, land-use and energy-use perspective.
In December 2015 Ireland signed up to the International legally binding Paris Climate Agreement (Paris COP21 Accord), to respond on an international basis to climate change. Also, in December 2015, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 (No. 46 of 2015) was also enacted. Both of these will set a National course for Ireland to transition to a low carbon and environmentally sustainable economy by the end of 2050. To assist in achieving this transition, the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government will prepare a National Mitigation Plan and a National Adaptation Framework to enable this transition objective.
The National Mitigation Plan will contain sectoral mitigation measures to be adopted. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Environmental Protection Agency are currently preparing a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Transport. This Plan will outline the contribution and transition that the transport section and public transport undertakers will plan in achieving the National Transition Objective in the short, medium and long term up to 2050.
In 2009, the Government has published Policy setting out a national vision for how a sustainable travel and transport system can be achieved (Smarter Travel, 2009). This document indicates that the transport sector accounts for approximately 19% of Ireland’s total greenhouse and a transfer to sustainable transport modes is necessary to achieve EU emission targets by 2020.
This policy set two relevant targets in relation to modal share between private cars, public transport and walking/cycling. The two relevant Smarter Travel targets are that by 2020:
- Reduce work related commute journeys made by private car from 65% to 45%; and
- The remaining targeted 55% of work related commute journeys are completed by public transport, walking or cycling
The Smarter Travel modal shift targets were ambitious and necessitated significant investment in public transport, especially high capacity modes such as those proposed in the DART Expansion Programme.
The Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy 2016-2035 is aimed at achieving Government Policy for modal shift from private car to public transport and walking/cycling.
Integration of land-use and efficient transport infrastructure is a core theme of National, Regional and Local Policy. The objective is to extract maximum return on investment by providing high density land-use adjacent to existing and proposed transport links.
At a local level, the Development Plans for each local authority set policy and objectives for land-use and transport corridors. Each local authority in which Iarnród Éireann’s network traverses seeks to maximise the benefit of this public transport system.
The DART Expansion Programme has the potential to provide a high quality transport system for the Greater Dublin Area and will provide commuters with a credible alternative to commuting by private car.
For more information, including links to the business case and an overview of options for the DART Underground tunnel, visit our website or email us at IENews@irishrail.ie