(This post originally appeared on blogspot in January 2011: Original post here)
The DART Underground project, planned to be built some time before 2018, oral heading is taking place at the moment. This project will link up the 4 railway lines coming in to Dublin, giving us more of a network and making rail travel in the city much better.
This is to be welcomed.
In particular, I welcome the fact that it improves and promotes public transport. If it easier to get around by public transport we might be able to convince less people to use their cars. It will also provide some employment in construction.
Irish Rail have a good name locally on the ground in the area. This is thanks to their investment in the community, which goes back to the 1840s, when they built Inchicore.
However,this goodwill should not be taken for granted. There are some shortcomings in the project, which I would like to highlight. Now that the project is to be delayed because of the financial situation it would be appropriate to consider these. The project needs to be finished properly, and this means leaving behind the poorly executed public consultation, and in short, doing the job right.
Apart from the issue of proper consultation, which is important to me as a green, as it goes to the heart of proper democracy, I want to address three issues:
- The lack of stations
- The location of those stations
- The alignment
This project needs to be built for the community, not for the construction industry.That means consulting properly with residents.
Consultation means actually listening to what people say. Deciding the plan behind closed doors and then presenting it to stakeholders, with characteristic lack of detail, as a fait accompli is not consultation.
Announcing public events, with notices only in selected places, only a short time in advance is not public consultation. The project passes under my building, yet there was no notice in my block or in my local spar about the sessions. I heard about them mostly by chance through Rail Users Ireland.
Asking for submissions on a smal postcard and then replying with a stock answer 6 months later is not consultation. (I read some other peoples reply’s – they were all very similar)
Proper consultation would mean holding town hall meetings with local residents, giving options and explaining them properly, and maybe even letting people vote for them. Actually addressing questions, not just refuting them and treating the public as adults, not childre.
Now to some of the shortcomings of the project as currently planned.
LACK OF STATIONS
At present, Parkwest, at 6km from Heuston is the first station on the line. Given that Heuston is currenly a terminus station and you still have to get a bus or luas to many parts of town, that’s not really a problem.
However, when the original DART opened in 1984, the affluent areas of Sandymount and Salthill got new station, both less than 2km from their nearest stations.
Later on Grand Canal Dock and Clontarf Road got stations, even though they were close to the old city centre stations. More stations are going to be needed between Heuston and Parkwest. They need to be as close as possible to the centres of Ballyfermot, Inchicore and there should be a plan for a future station near the South Circular Road.
Locations must be chosen to fit in with where people live now, not where developers might like to “add value” to future construction projects.
That means that the proposed station in the Inchicore engineering works is wholely unsuitable. From the point of view of access, there is virtually none without severe disruption to surrounding neighbourhoods. The works is too far from Inchicore village for people to walk.
If access to the proposed station was planned from Kylemore Road, then why not just build that station at Kylemore Road? This would allow efficient interchange with road services, including a cross city bus (the 18) and any future Luas etc., without adding to the journey times of those services.
Alternatively, there are properties owned by NAMA to the south of the railway allignment near le Fanu Road. Ballyfermot people might like this better as it is marginally closer to the centre of Ballyfermot.
Ideally, an Inchicore station should be located under Grattan Crescent Park, or if a sufficient number of local residents opposed an allignment along the Camac, close to the junction of the Con Colbert and Sarsfield Roads (I’ll show this diagramatically in a moment) This latter option would allow for interchange with buses on the N4, and, perhaps a park and ride if an underground carpark was built.
Provision should also be made for a further station at the South Circular Road.There is substantial empty development at Clancy Quay, a hotel, a number of schools and facilities around that area.
We should be talking about best practice here, and not just building stations in locations which are convenient to us because of the design of Victorian Infrastructure.
It is common sense that the allignment needs to minimise the number of homes under which it passes, both for operational and construction reasons. The alignment also needs to ensure that the greatest number of homes have access to stations
There are obviously also structural issues, but we need transparency about these. Rocks are not “commercially sensitive”
In this diagram, I present 2 alternative allignments to the current plan that better fit the parameters I have mentioned and that will be more palatable to residents.
Option A, has been put forward by Irish Rail and manages to miss the unnecessary tunnelling under Woodfield etc. With this alignment Inchicore Station could be in the green space directly to the north of the Dan Ryan yard.
Option B takes the service nearer to the people by going through the heart of Inchicore. The downside of this is that it would have to pass under 2-3 houses in Inchicore Square, the Metropolitan Apartment Block on Inchicore Road and 2-3 houses on SCR and Kilmainham Lane,
The village of Inchicore would very much benefit from such a station. Cost/Benefit as always has to be taken into consideration, but is meaningless if it doesn’t take into account cost/benefit in the wider community, as opposed to in the narrower scope of the project.
In closing, this is a fantastic project, but it should be built for the people that will use it, where they need it.