In March 2011, its “2030 vision” was still championing such boom-time projects as Metro North and Dart Underground. But the “implementation programme” is much more modest in scale.
It no longer even mentions Metro North, a largely underground Luas line that would have run from St Stephen’s Green to Swords via Dublin Airport. The €4 billion cost of this 17km line simply cannot be funded, nor can the €2 billion Dart Underground.
The latest programme, now out for public consultation, merely aims to “protect or progress Dart Underground in line with the Government’s decision on the next capital plan” – from 2018 onwards – and extend Dart-style electrification to the Maynooth line.
As an interim measure, it proposes reopening the largely disused Phoenix Park tunnel linking Heuston and Connolly stations, so that commuters on the Kildare line can travel directly to Docklands. But this is not seen as a substitute for Dart Underground.
The long-mooted upgrade of antiquated signalling along the critical city-centre stretch of railway between Connolly Station and Grand Canal Dock will finally proceed, to accommodate an additional eight trains per hour in each direction, up from 12 per hour to 20.
This is described as “a key project aimed at unlocking the existing bottleneck in the city centre, which will have positive spin-off effects for Dart, commuter and inter-city passengers”.
What is remarkable, however, is that there has been such a long delay in delivering it. Now we’re told that the completion of resignalling the line would allow commuter services to start using the Phoenix Park tunnel “in late 2015 or early 2016”.