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Dart Underground project shelved, says Paschal Donohoe

Published 22/09/2015

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Government must continue to 'seek the best value for taxpayers' money in everything we do'
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Government must continue to 'seek the best value for taxpayers' money in everything we do'

The three billion euro Dart Underground project through Dublin city has been shelved, with new, cheaper plans to be drawn up.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed the expected U-turn, insisting the new design would cost less but run along a similar route from Inchicore to the Docklands.

The tunnel design - originally envisaged as a twin 7.5km route about 25m below the city streets - will be redrawn.

It will now be 2020 before any work begins on that aspect of the flagship urban transport project.

"As Government works to further stabilise the public finances, we must continue to seek the best value for taxpayers' money in everything we do," he said.

"A project of such magnitude - in the order of four billion euro - has to be designed and delivered in a way that best ensures cost-effectiveness for the taxpayer and the state."

The original Dart Underground route would have gone from Inchicore to Spencer Dock through Heuston, Christchurch, St Stephen's Green and Pearse station.

The intention was to create railway links between the national networks with people from Northern Ireland, Drogheda and Dundalk able to travel out west of the capital to Kildare or Maynooth, and Dart commuters also able to switch to other lines in the city centre, mainly Pearse.

Mr Donohoe said transport spending on rail will now focus on expanding current Dart services including electrification of the northern commuter line to Balbriggan and additional work to increase frequency of services.

Any compulsory purchase orders secured for the original Dart Underground line will not be enforced now.

The Department of Transport said other aspects of the overall Dart expansion plan will proceed when funds are available, including e lectrification of the northern line to Drogheda, the Cork Line from Heuston to Hazelhatch and the completion of four tracks from Park West to Inchicore.

Other improvements include electrification of the Sligo Line from Connolly to Maynooth and the removal of level crossings and re-signalling.

Irish Rail said it welcomed the focus on upgrading existing Dart lines.

"While the current tunnel aspect of the Dart expansion programme will not proceed under the existing Railway Order, we welcome the support at Government and National Transport Authority level that the Dart expansion programme is crucial for national economic development and addressing traffic congestion in the Greater Dublin area and beyond," the company said.

Timmy Dooley, Fianna Fail transport spokesman, described the decision as a major setback for Greater Dublin and the economy.

"The economic case for Dart Underground is strong. The time to invest in key infrastructure projects is now. This project would yield huge economic benefits for the country and transform our public transport network for commuters," he said.

Fianna Fail claimed 40 million euro has been spent on the shelved project and that delays until after 2020 will escalate costs.

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