Rail tunnel plan to go ahead - Dempsey

 

MINISTER FOR Transport Noel Dempsey has said that the underground interconnector between Dublin's docklands and Heuston Station is to proceed as planned in 2009 notwithstanding the deterioration in the public finances.

The Minister described the rail tunnel, which will accommodate an underground Dart line, as the "most critical piece of infrastructure" for public transport in the State.

"We will not get people to use or depend on public transport unless it's totally integrated," he said, adding he was confident the project would finish on schedule and that the first passengers would use the service in 2015.

Mr Dempsey said Iarnród Éireann would apply for a Railway Order, the equivalent of planning permission, during 2009 and it was also likely to begin the procurement and tendering process by the end of next year.

"That process is likely to spill over into 2010. The stage after that is negotiations with the preferred bidder which could take six to eight months.

"All things being equal this time, in two years, we will know the identity of the contractor," Mr Dempsey said.

The underground line will run from Heuston Station to the docklands with stops at Pearse Street, St Stephen's Green and the general vicinity of Christ Church.

The rationale behind the interconnector is to provide a series of hubs that will link all forms of rail travel in Dublin, including the Luas, mainline rail, the Dart, the new underground Dart as well as the proposed Metro North.

Once the service is operational, passengers will be able to switch from one form of transport to another at different levels of the same station, including the major underground station which is earmarked for St Stephen's Green.

The tunnel will also facilitate more rail movements between the north and south of the river Liffey. At present, a single bridge accommodates all mainline and commuter train traffic, as well as Dart services.

"It is integrating all forms of transport. That is why integrated ticketing is also very important. That also needs to be in place if it is to run smoothly," he said.

Mr Dempsey said that planning for the tunnel would continue even in the event of a serious deterioration in public finances.

"Too often in the past what we neglected to do in a downturn was plan for the future," he said.