Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Topical Issue Debate
Rail Network Expansion
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter. The Minister is very much aware of the particular requirements of commuters on the north side of Dublin. For several years there have been serious capacity problems along the northern commuter line which extends as far as the Border and they continue to get worse. Although additional capacity is urgently required, I understand Iarnród Éireann is not in a position to extend existing services beyond what it already has done.
As part of the capital plan announced in 2015, I was pleased to see included an undertaking to extend the DART beyond its current finishing point at Malahide to Balbriggan, with a view to eventually electrifying the entire north-eastern commuter line. It is vital that the necessary funding and resources be put into delivering on that commitment. This afternoon, however, I have received a letter from Mr. Hugh Creegan, deputy chief executive officer of the National Transport Authority, which acknowledges that not much work has been done on electrification, particularly on the northern commuter line. This is very disappointing, particularly as I was informed heretofore that the project would proceed to planning before the end of the year. It is beyond me why my previous overtures on this matter, pointing out that the project was not being given much attention, as Mr. Creegan now acknowledges, were ignored.
The other major transport infrastructure to be delivered in my constituency is the metro north project. It was due to proceed to planning, or at least public consultation, in the fourth quarter of 2017. We are now in December and there is no public consultation process. I read a newspaper article yesterday which made reference to a public space on St. Stephen's Green, but no additional information was provided on what the transport authorities were doing to ensure timely delivery of these essential projects. If the DART project is delayed by 12 months or, more likely, two years, we are looking at 2021 before the four-year plan, construct and build process, as outlined in the national capital plan, will commence. As a daily user of the DART, I often travel on trains after 9 a.m. that are absolutely jammed leaving Malahide and do not get into the city until 10 a.m. That is incredibly frustrating, particularly for commuters further down the line. I appeal to the Minister to allocate the necessary resources to deliver these projects. The capital plan is being reviewed and additional funding provided for it. I cannot think of a better use for that additional funding than for the purpose of accelerating the delivery of the DART extension project.