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Navan - Meath CC admit blocking alignment

The following is the response of Rail Users Ireland to the admission of Meath County Council that the recently laid sewer main along the former Dublin and Meath railway at Dunsany bridge obstructs the reopening of the Clonsilla Navan line.

The Sequence Of Events

In August 2005, members of Rail Users Ireland noticed pipe laying works along the old Navan Railway alignment in the vicinity of Dunsany, Co. Meath. Shortly afterwards we carried out a site visit to ascertain exactly what was being done. Photographs were taken and various features measured and recorded. Subsequent research revealed that the works were part of the Skane Valley / Dunshaughlin sewerage scheme. http://www.meath.ie/dunshaughlin_sewerage_scheme/home.html

As the reopening of the railway to Navan was proposed in the DTO's Platform for Change document, we were concerned that these works were contrary to Meath County Council's commitment to the reopening of the line. Problems in relation to the M3 motorway had already highlighted a lack of foresight in relation to opening the railway.

Therefore our concern urged us to contact Meath County Council in relation to the laying of a sewer main along a section of the old Clonsilla to Navan railway line. We are of the opinion that the laying of a sewer main along part of the alignment demonstrated a lack of commitment to reopening the line from Meath County Council and that it would inhibit the full reopening of the said line. These points were raised in a letter to Meath County Council in November 2005. Previous inquiries had drew a blank. The main thrust of our query was the following;

The location of manholes and a sewer main in the area around Dunsany Bridge would necessitate their removal in order to facilitate a new railway

Our concerns were based on Irish Rail and RPA engineering standards in relation to the Kildare Route Project and Luas utility diversion works, which clearly state where sewers are buried at a substantial distance below the track bed they will not be relocated, however manhole access will need to be relocated away from the track bed.

The Response

Meath County Council had ample opportunity to address the issue, there delay in a response is inexplicable.

  • A letter was sent by Rail Users Ireland on November 24th 2005
  • This letter was acknowledged promptly on the 28th November 2005
  • A response was finally received on February 15th, dated February 14th 2006
  • No reason was given for the delay

Throughout this period Meath County Council continued to insist the sewer did not obstruct the alignment, even going as far as stating they was no sewer at all!

"I'm sick of hearing about some supposed sewer pipe on the Navan rail alignment"

"The pipe line was built to facilitate the reopening of the rail line."

Mr Tom Dowling, Meath County Manager, at a public meeting in Navan 2nd February 2006

With respect to the overall preservation of the alignment

The An Bord Peanala decision concerning the M3 at Cannistown stipulated a requirement for a bridge capable to accommodating a 2 track electrified railway.

This was not on the plans submitted by Meath CC and the NRA to An Bord Pleanala. No reference can be found in the EIS and accompanying documents to the severance of the line at Cannistown, but Pace is clearly identified even though it is a link road to the M3 not the M3 itself which required a bridge. As such we have formed a very reasonable opinion backed by solid fact that Meath CC knowingly failed to prevent obstruction of the alignment. Owing to the unique features of the Cannistown site later reconstruction of the motorway to allow for a railway would be all but impossible. An Bord Pleanala based there opinion based on the 2000 development plan and Dublin strategic planning guidelines.

With respect to the preservation of the alignment at Dunsany

Meath County Councils response clearly indicates that the pipe will require modifications near Dunsany bridge

3. The construction of the sewer line did involve measures so as not to compromise the re-instatement of the rail-line on its original alignment, apart from a short section (approx. 100m) at Dunsany Bridge. The pipeline inclusive of manholes is constructed on the side of the former alignment.... Any modification to the access to the manholes and in particular the ones in the vicinity of Dunsany Bridge can be easily engineered to satisfy future requirements of the Rail Authority as part of the detailed design of the rail-line and necessary railway order.

Prior to this response Meath CC held top the claim the pipe did not obstruct the alignment, that is not the case. This is a complete contradiction of the previous quotes from Mr Tom Dowling, Meath County Manager. Rail Users Ireland have photographic evidence and on site experience that the sewer main and manholes actually pass through the centre point of the alignment in the immediate area of Dunsany bridge.

With respect to the specific details of the alignment at Dunsany

It is assumed that the Clonsilla Navan line will be rebuilt to take two tracks as it was designed to do so in the 1850's. Until the feasibility study is complete the optimum track configuration will not be known, as such the construction of anything on or below any land within 10 meters of the centre line of the existing alignment is in our opinion an encroachment on the alignment and thus would in our opinion be in breech of the aims of the development plan.

The details of Transport 21 released November 2nd 2005 indicated that the line to Navan will be electrified this will require increase in clearance at bridges to achieve the nominal 4.8m required. This will either require bridges to be raised, trackbed to be dropped or a combination of both. If the trackbed is dropped it may reduce the depth to which the sewer is laid. It has been standard practice of Iarnród Éireann since the DART project that all new and replaced bridges be tall enough for later electrification, this requirement would be satisfied regardless of the option chosen for Navan and is not new information.

It is assumed that if the line justifies electrification it would be a two track line, again the an Bord Pleanala judgement on the M3 issue allows for this, but Meath CC's actions at Dunsany do not.

Manholes are provided for a reason, for access, where there is a sharp bend or where there is a junction. There is one manhole 150m north of Dunsany bridge where the sewer does a 90 degree bend, this manhole is on the centre of the alignment. The positioning of both manholes at Dunsany Bridge is most awkward as are the two further manholes roughly 75 metres ether side of Dunsany bridge. Thus if a manhole is to be removed the question becomes why it existed in the first place and will its removal have a negative effect on the operation and maintenance of the pipeline, in fact it could require the pipeline to be removed totally.

If the line is reopened as a single line the optimum alignment allowing for curves etc. is a matter for Iarnród Éireann's civil engineering department. The approach to Dunsany is on a easy curve on a falling gradient. The western side upon which the sewer is laid would offer a better track alignment. Rail safety standards followed by Iarnród Éireann require the outer rail of any line to be not less the 4.5m from a bridge abutment, this means the line will be more centred.

It has been confirmed to us that neither Iarnród Éireann or the Interim Rail Safety Commission were contacted for engineering advice with respect of the pipe. The justification being the land was in private ownership and that no firm plan existed for the reopening. As such talk of an easy engineering solution is premature and cannot be proven until after a detailed survey and design is produced.

Even with all the manholes removed the sewer is still in place underneath the working railway, it would be infeasible to access the pipe for maintenance etc. without disruption to rail services, even if the pipe is to one side. Again this highlight the optimum solution to be the total removal of the pipe from the alignment.

Conclusion

Rail Users Ireland has again exposed an attempt to brush the truth under the carpet.

We conclude that the sewer main is an obstruction to the construction of a railway line. Contray to Meath County Council's response the pipeline is very much in the center of the alignment not to one side. The issue could have been avoided if Meath County Council had taken an alternative route which did not compromise the railway alignment in line with the development plan.. This lack of foresight will require the expenditure of taxpayers money to resolve, this could easily have been avoided.

Rail Users Ireland believes that the reopening of the Navan rail link will be prejudiced and compromised by the Skane Valley Sewerage scheme as proposed by Transport 21 and future proofed by the An Bord Pleanala M3 ruling. We acknowledge that engineers can get over problems and we don't doubt that they can. However the two examples highlighted (M3 - Cannistown and the rail line at Dunsany) clearly highlight that Meath CC, have not been as dedicated to the reopening of the rail line as they'd like people to think.

Last Updated: October 16 2007 22:37:35
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