DART expansion plan includes airport link

Iarnrod Eireann plans to expand the stalled DART Underground project to include a link to Dublin Airport.

The company hopes to develop an integrated rail network which would allow rail passengers to travel from the airport into the city centre, and on to Cork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo and Belfast.

And the Irish Independent has learned that EU funding of up to €780m could be available to build the massive project, resulting in a far lower bill for the taxpayer.

The Department of Transport said that DART Underground – expected to cost in the region of €2.6bn – could be in line for the money because it is a priority transport project.

A spokesman said a maximum of 30pc of the costs of building the 7.6km line could be provided by the EU.

Planning permission is already in place for the tunnel, which would run underneath the city, connecting the northern and Kildare lines, with underground stations at Spencer Dock, Pearse, St Stephen’s Green,Christchurch, Heuston Station and a surface DART station at Inchicore

The DART Airport link would cost in the region of €200m, and would provide a link from Howth junction to the airport.

But the total cost of the project is estimated to be more than €4bn – €2.6bn to build the tunnel, with another €1.4bn needed to electrify one line between the city centre and Hazelhatch in Kildare, a second line between Connolly Station and Maynooth in Kildare, new rolling stock and the elimination of level crossings.

Some €1bn would be provided by the public purse, another €400m by way of a loan from the European Investment Bank. EU funding could provide another €780m, with the remainder being sourced from the private sector, which would be repaid back over time.

It could be running within a decade if the money becomes available. The cost of the airport link is in the region of €200m, and Iarnrod Eireann plans to lobby to have it included.

“A combination of potential EU funding, to a maximum of between 20pc and 30pc of the total cost and a one-off special allocation from the Exchequer could allow the project to be re-started,” a department of transport spokesman said.

“The EU regards Dart Underground as a significant project on a European scale because it would connect all the main rail lines, and it remains a live project for the National Transport Authority (NTA).”

The project was deferred in 2010 but is due to be re-examined by 2015 when the Government announces the next capital investment programme.

Iarnrod Eireann chief executive David Franks said Dublin was one of the few capital cities in Europe without a link to the airport.

“DART Underground, which I refer to as DART expansion, includes electrifying lines and I would like to improve that in adding a link to the airport,” he said.

“We could either do it all at once, or take it in steps. At this moment in time, I’m hearing that DART is not dead, but deferred. The next opportunity is in 2015 with the next review of the capital programme.”

The prospect of EU funding for the project was raised by Transport MinisterLeo Varadkar during the recent Irish presidency of the EU.

Because of its size, it could be considered a ‘standalone’ project – unlike regular upgrades of the network – and qualify for special funding. Source: The Irish Independent