THE LONG-DELAYED DART Underground project appears to have been put even further back on the long finger.
The government today announced Project Ireland 2040, the country’s new national planning and capital expenditure plans.
One of the biggest pledges in the proposal was a commitment to develop a metro in Dublin. The plan is a re-imagining of the long-delayed Metro North project, with the new route running through parts of south Dublin.
However, there was little mention of another large-scale transport project that has been talked about for even longer: the Dart Underground.
The project is a proposed railway line that would run under Dublin’s city centre and would link all rail, Dart and Luas services in the capital.
The 7.6 km line would connect the northern track to Heuston Station and from there on to Kildare rail lines, and could potentially link lines across the country, such as Cork to Belfast.
Irish Rail started seriously working on the project in 2002, however, it has been plagued by delays and was shelved during the recession due to its expense.
The projected cost of building the tunnel is €3 billion, while it is estimated that €1 billion would be spent on expanding Dart services through measures such as electrifying lines.
Despite this, the Dart Underground project manager Peter Muldoon estimated that construction work could start within the next five years, around 2023.
The Ireland 2040 document said that there would be an investment in “priority elements of Dart expansion”.
The National Development Plan, an accompanying document which lays out the projects that will be prioritised between now and 2027, said that the Dart expansion programme would cost about €2 billion.
It said that the initial investment will focus on delivering “non-underground tunnel elements of the programme using the recently opened rail link and existing connector tunnel under the Phoenix Park”.
It said this would include buying additional trains, re-signalling work and junction changes. Following this, the plan is to focus on electrifying routes so that the Dart can run on new lines, such as to Drogheda.
Regarding the Dart Underground tunnel, the plan only said that the proposed route “will be established and protected to allow for its future delivery”. It made no mention of when work on the project may start.
The only other mention of the Dart Underground project is that it will be delivered sometime “post-2027″.
A spokesman for Irish Rail said the project has not been shelved, saying: “It’s still part of the National Transport Authority (NTA) Greater Dublin Strategy and we will be working with the NTA to complete a tunnel review design this year.”
However, asked if the document indicates that the Dart Underground has been further delayed, a spokesman for Irish Rail simply said: “Yes.”
The Department of Transport had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.