Planning approval for underground Dart line


IARNRÓD ÉIREANN has been granted permission to construct Dublin’s Dart underground rail line, which was shelved by the Government last month.

An Bord Pleanála yesterday granted the railway order to allow the Dart project to go ahead, but it has yet to make a decision on the future of the Luas BXD line, the only major rail project the Government has sanctioned.

The approved 7.6km underground line would link Heuston station to the Dart line for the first time, with underground stations at Spencer Dock, Pearse station, St Stephen’s Green, Christchurch, and Heuston as well as a ground-level station at Inchicore.

The Government last month decided not to go ahead with the underground line, which has a price tag of about €1.2 billion, within the capital programme which lasts until 2016, and has made no commitment to proceed with its construction after this date.

The railway order granted by the board yesterday allows for the line to be substantially constructed within a 10-year period. For it to be complete by 2021, work would have to begin by 2015.

While a 10-year permission would not be unusual for a development of this size, the board has also allowed Iarnród Éireann seven years within which to activate compulsory purchase orders for the land needed for the line, instead of the usual 18 months.

More than 4,000 owners or occupiers were originally identified as having properties which would be affected by the line. While this has been revised, there are more than 2,000 property owners/occupiers likely to be served with compulsory purchase orders.

In its explanation for granting the seven-year period, the board does not refer to the decision to delay the project and instead cites the scale and nature of the project, and that as a concept it dates back to the 1970s.

The board said it had considered the concerns expressed by property owners in relation to “planning blight” in making its decision.

Planning blight was referred to by the board’s inspector, Tom Rabbette, in that property owners felt they were effectively prohibited from selling or developing their properties for the period. However Mr Rabbette concluded that an 18-month period would be “problematic and possibly unrealistic”.

However he said there would be site-specific “planning blight” if the railway order was granted and then “not acted upon”.

Mr Rabbette recommended to the board that the scheme be approved, saying the negative impacts were “far outweighed by the positive”.

Iarnród Éireann yesterday welcomed the board’s decision. The line would be the “single most important piece of infrastructure in the State”, the company said.

“Although construction of the project has been deferred due to the reduced availability of capital funding, the Government has stated that it will be reviewed in 2015 for the next capital investment programme,” it said.

A spokesman for the board yesterday said a decision on the Luas BXD line might be issued before the end of the year.