The long delay faced by countless commuters across Kildare last Wednesday following the closure of the M50 clearly demonstrates that we have a growing problem with traffic in the Greater Dublin Area. I have been consistently raising transport issues for commuters over the last 10 years. The failure to invest in public transport will only compound the long delays that commuters are now experiencing on a daily basis. This is having an impact on people’s quality of life, and is also putting potential investors off doing business in the Dublin area. Unfortunately gridlock is going to become a persistent problem for Kildare commuters. The M50 is already over capacity despite the fact that it acts as the main route to north and south Dublin alongside the city centre itself. Any accident along the route has the potential to shut down all roads across the Greater Dublin Area.
Tuesday 22nd September 2015 is a sad day for Kildare commuters, and indeed commuters from across the Greater Dublin Area. Minister Paschal Donohue has axed the plans for the DART Underground project which would see the Kildare commuter line directly connected to the city centre via an underground line from Heuston to Pearse. Despite evidence based research indicating that it would be of major benefit to the economy in the Greater Dublin Area, the Government have allowed the project to lapse which had already passed design and planning stages (at a cost of €40m).
It marks a depressing absence of vision to hear the Government announce that the DART Underground project will not proceed as currently designed. The project offers enormous benefits for commuters and businesses across the entire Greater Dublin Area. The decision made by Fine Gael and Labour means that opportunity will now be lost.
The DART Underground is the only project that offers the opportunity to provide an underground link between the existing DART line in Dublin and the Western rail line which currently terminates at Heuston station, nearly 3km away from the city centre. The construction of an underground rail link into the city centre will have enormous benefits for commuters in Kildare and beyond. The DART Underground will allow commuters to directly access the city centre without having to change service at Heuston station. It will reduce commuting times, vastly increase rail capacity and will encourage people to use public transport instead of driving into the city.
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The Phoenix Park tunnel works is a positive step but it is not a panacea. Whilst I will always welcome investment in the railway, the Phoenix Park tunnel is not the holy grail many hold it out to be. It does have the definite benefit of connecting the two major rail routes across the country for the first time in a hundred years. On the flip side it does little to get Kildare line commuters into the south part of the city where most of them want to go. Services using the park tunnel will terminate at Connolly and the journey time is not necessarily better than the current LUAS link option.
I recently met with Irish Rail to raise concerns regarding the rail services in North Kildare. In what was a positive meeting I discussed the main issues that commuters who use the train services daily, including myself, have found need improving. Irish Rail were receptive to these opinions and a number of improvements and reviews were agreed at the meeting.
- A new timetable is due for publication in early 2016. This new timetable will address the evening gap in both Hazelhatch and Sallins train stations. A draft version of the timetable will be made available and commuters will have the opportunity to have their say.
- Irish Rail agreed to review the 23.10 last train time.
- The issue of lack of awareness of the shuttle bus from Celbridge to Hazelhatch station was brought up. Irish Rail made the point that the shuttle timetable is on their website and has been running this facility for a long time.