The Dart underground project, shelved a decade ago following the economic crash, is being resurrected by the National Transport Authority (NTA), documents reveal.
The €4.5 billion underground line to link Heuston Station to the Dart line by tunnelling under the city via St Stephen’s Green was one of the “big three” transport projects planned during the boom, along with the Luas Cross City and the Metro.
While the new Luas opened in December 2017, and a planning application for the Metro is due to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála shortly, the underground – by far the most expensive of the three projects at the time – was shelved in 2011.
However, the NTA is again pursuing the underground scheme, which will be one of the largest transport infrastructure schemes undertaken in the city in decades, and has engaged consultants Jacobs Engineering to devise route options for the line.
The line was due to run from the Northern Line just north of Connolly Station, to Inchicore on the Kildare Line, and with stations proposed at Docklands, Pearse, St Stephen's Green, Christchurch, Heuston and Inchicore.
However, for the new line, now branded Dart+Tunnel, Jacobs has been asked to look at a "lower cost" option which would see a shortened underground section with the tunnel portal starting at Docklands and ending just west of Heuston Station, south of the Chapelizod bypass and close to the National War Memorial Gardens.
Jacobs does not have to adhere to the previously alignment and can recommend “location of new stations required [if any]”, according to the NTA brief.
Sustainable transport lobby group, the Dublin Commuter Coalition, welcomed the beginning of route selection for the project, which it said could transform the rail network.
"It could enable direct services from Drogheda to Hazelhatch and beyond into Kildare with stations right in the city centre connecting with MetroLink, Luas and other Dart services," spokesman Feljin Jose said.
“It’s the kind of world-class rail infrastructure we need to reduce pollution, congestion and our reliance on private cars and to meet our climate goals.”
He said he hoped the project would be backed up with the funding required.
“This project has been talked about since the early 1970s by different State agencies that no longer exist. The last thing we need is another plan without funding. We’re hoping that the Government will fast-track the project by allocating funding for its construction in the current review of the 2021-2030 National Development Plan.”
A spokesman for the NTA said the Jacobs study would be published in the middle of this year as part of a public consultation process on the review of the transport strategy for the greater Dublin area.
The NTA last August announced plans for the extension of Dart services from Dublin to Drogheda, Celbridge and Maynooth – with the electrification of services on the three commuter lines; purchase of new Dart trains; and upgrade of the existing southern Dart line to Greystones. However, the underground was not included in these plans.