The Dublin Rail plan or Interconnector as it is better known is a visionary plan developed by Iarnród Éireann to address both the current capacity crisis that exists on all current suburban rail services and the lack of a direct connection between Connolly and Heuston station. Together with solving these problems substantial capacity will be provided for the further growth of Dublin.
Dublin has effectively two separate rail networks, one to Heuston station and one through Connolly station. As it stands today there are no timetabled services between Connolly and Heuston. Connolly is chronically congested, all DART, Western, Northern, Southern, Belfast, Rosslare and Sligo services must pass through this one station. This leads to frequent delays and heavily restricts the service that Iarnród Éireann can provide to commuters since to provide an extra service on one line requires the sacrifice of a service on another. Through the late 1990's DART services where altered to accommodate the growing number of Western and Northern suburban services leading to a highly variable service to DART passengers with gaps in excess of 20 minutes not uncommon. We cannot blame Iarnród Éireann for this they are simply trying to maximise the number of people they can carry. The principle restriction to capacity is sufficient rolling stock not track capacity as claimed by Iarnród Éireann.
The plan consists of three key elements:
- Maximising the capacity of the current network.
- Providing a direct connection between Heuston and the city centre.
- Massive expansion of the DART network.
The capacity enhancement program has been underway for some time. Capacity enhancements consist of increasing all trains to 8 coach length with refurbished and rebuilt stations to match. A new station will be provided at Spencer Dock opened in 2007 which will allow a 100% increase in capacity in Maynooth line services. 4 tracks will be provided from Hazelhatch to Clondalkin thus allowing separation of suburban and intercity trains on the approach to Heuston station. Signaling will be upgraded to allow more frequent services through the city centre area.
The key element is the Interconnector. The Interconnector is a tunnel to connect Heuston station with a new station at Spencer Dock, thus connecting Heuston with the Northern and Western lines. This tunnel will allow a massive increase in capacity by eliminating the current capacity restriction through the city centre. It will include stations at High Street, Stephen's Green, Pearse and Spencer Dock. Connections to Luas Green line can be made at Stephen's Green, connections to Luas Red line at Heuston and Spencer Dock. Passengers may also change at Pearse station for services to Maynooth/Dunboyne and Bray/Greystones. The tunnel will built sufficiently large enough to allow for the use of double decker trains and will be designed from the outset for trains of up to 12 coaches in length.
Electrification of the rail network to include, Hazelhatch - Dublin, Maynooth/Dunboyne - Dublin and Balbriggan - Dublin. This will allow all core suburban services to be electrically operated thus providing a more reliable service. The wide-scale electrification will provide resiliency in the network in the event of difficulties on one section trains can be re-routed.
Following the opening of the Interconnector tunnel all rail services will be restructured. Three new Dart lines will be created,
- Maynooth/Dunboyne to Bray/Greystones calling at all stations via Connolly, Tara Street and Pearse
- Hazelhatch to Balbriggan via Dublin City Centre, calling at all stations to Heuston then High Street, Stephen's Green, Pearse, Spencer Dock, Howth Junction and all stations to Drogheda
Before the advent of Transport 21 the plan included bringing the DART to Kildare and Drogheda, this has now been dropped not on financial grounds but at the insistence of the Dublin Transportation Office who blocked it on the grounds that such an extension would promote further sprawl of Dublin, this of course fails to acknowledge the fact that Drogheda will have a population of 80,000 in the medium term while Newbrdige is already in excess of 25,000.
In addition to the new DART lines there will be massive increases in frequency on all outer suburban routes. All outer suburban destinations such as Arklow, Dundalk, Longford, Portlaoise and Tullamore will all see two trains an hour in the rush hour.