Dempsey eyes 2011 rail tunnel completion

TRANSPORT Minister Noel Dempsey is planning to bring forward plans for an ambitious rail tunnel linking Heuston Station to St Stephen’s Green, the docklands and Pearse Street Station.

He is to make the project an immediate priority in his department, the Irish Examiner has established.

An interconnector which will link all Dublin’s main train stations and transport hubs has been described as a vital “backbone” of Transport 21 and an integrated transport system for Dublin.

Under current plans in Transport 21, the projected completion date for the Interconnector is 2015. However, in his first big change to Transport 21, it is understood Mr Dempsey is strongly of the view an earlier completion date is vital.

He wants its completion date brought forward, by a further four years, to 2011.

It would mean commencing the project at the end of 2008 or early 2009 and would also necessitate the agreement of Tánaiste Brian Cowen to release capital funds for the project. No figures have yet been released but, on the evidence of the port tunnel development, it is likely to be a billion-dollar-plus project.

Mr Dempsey’s rationale for prioritising the project is its completion will deliver:

* A second high capacity DART line through the heart of the city, a 5.2km underground line.

* Significantly increased frequency and capacity for services on the northern, Maynooth and Kildare lines — the three fastest growing population corridors in the country.

* A fully integrated rail network for the Greater Dublin area, linking all modes — DART, Commuter, Intercity, LUAS and Metro — and ensuring that suburb to suburb as well as suburb to city centre journeys can be made by a frequent, high-capacity public transport network.

* Two high capacity DART lines proposed as Balbriggan/Howth to Hazelhatch; Maynooth/Dunboyne (M3) to Bray/Greystones with DART extensions to some routes likely to be delivered in advance of the Interconnector.

* A quadrupling, to 100 million, of the current number of passenger journeys by DART and commuter rail annually.

He also subscribes to the “big bang” theory of disruption. If the interconnector and the Dublin North Metro were being constructed at the same time, it would mean traffic disruption would happen once not twice. Nevertheless, even before he seeks funding, a railway order application has to be granted. Nor is it known at this stage if Mr Dempsey will have to seek Cabinet approval for such a radical change in priorities within Transport 21.

Interconnector vital backbone

Q: What is the Interconnector?

A: It is largely a tunnel that will connect the existing Northern Line to the lines running out from Heuston Station. New stations will be constructed at Docklands, St Stephens Green and High St and these will link with Pearse and Heuston Stations.

The Interconnector is considered to be the vital “backbone” of an integrated public transport system for Dublin. Currently, there are huge problems with capacity, particularly in relation to the lines connecting Pearse and Connolly Stations on either side of the Liffey. Higher capacity and more frequent services can be provided.

More in this section