DART+ South West is a massive rail project which aims to hugely increase and electrify the capacity of the line coming from Celbridge/Hazelhatch into Dublin’s Heuston Station.

Consultation closes at 5pm on 23rd June 2021 here. Below are some of my main thoughts in answer to their questions. (If interested, here’s another great submission from Lauren Tuite.)

Q: Do you support the principle of the DART+ South West Project?

Yes! The project hugely increases capacity on the line, making for a better, more regular service. This is good for commuters along the existing route, and good for the area I represent as a councillor, as it will reduce car traffic through our streets. Increased electrification will also cut local air pollution – which is currently among the worst in the country at Heuston Station.

Q. Which aspects of the Project are of most interest and why?

Aside from supporting the project generally, my key issues are:

1. Junction redesign at the South Circular Road and the Chapelizod Bypass
This junction is high-traffic and hugely hostile to pedestrians and cyclists. It is difficult to fix, as the road is large and busy and is immediately above a rail line.

Despite this, the route is frequently used by walkers and cyclists, as it is close to parks, schools, and residential areas.

The Dart+ SW project should use this opportunity to make substantial changes to this junction to allow active travel priority and improve safety. Not doing so will be a huge missed opportunity, as it will be expensive/impossible to do so after the works.

2. Public access and permeability

The rail line and bypass cuts the area in half. Limited crossings over the rail tracks make for impermeable, pedestrian-hostile spaces. This project should aim to open up space and access around Heuston Station, Clancy Quay, the Kybher Pass, and over the tracks in Inchicore.

3. Additional stations

Ballyfermot and Inchicore are growing residential areas, with large tracts of ex-industrial land being rezoned for residential purposes. This project should explicitly provide for new stations to serve Ballyfermot, Inchicore and Kilmainham – such as at Kylemore Road, for example.

It is welcome that the project will be done in such a way to allow new stations, but the project team should look at including these new stations now, which would surely be more cost effective and ensure more local support for the project.

4. Design – particularly bridges

Much rail line goes through open countryside or alongside motorways. But much of this project is going through highly populated residential areas. The design of pre-cast concrete motorways might be cheaper, but should be reconsidered in city areas.

What works for a motorway is not appropriate for a bridge just a few metres away from homes. Extra design work (including landscaping and use of design skills from non-engineering professions) should go into any works in city areas.

5. Air quality

St. John’s Road West at Heuston Station recently exceeded EU standards for air pollution. Any increase in public transport will help this, but the environmental impact assessment should take this issue into account and clearly model the effect on air quality – both from engines and particulate matter from brakes etc.

6. Construction management plan

I know from living beside the rail line that works are often necessarily done late at night. This is understandable, but arc welding 10m away from a bedroom window at 3am is disruptive to say the least.

The project should make provision to reduce noise and dirt for nearby residents during construction.

Any thoughts? Drop me a message on michael@pidgeon.ie, or join the Twitter conversation here.