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How long might commuters be waiting for the Dart to Drogheda?

Eamon Ryan defends timeline saying it takes ‘time to build public transport infrastructure in this country, it does take time’

The extension of the Dart system from Malahide in Co Dublin to Drogheda in Co Louth appeared to reach another milestone on Tuesday when Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan briefed Cabinet on the State’s intention to seek planning permission for the project.

Alongside fast, high-frequency services between Dublin city and Drogheda with stops including Clongriffin, Balbriggan and Skerries, the Dart+ Coastal North rail project will also increase capacity for commuters travelling to and from Dublin city.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the estimated cost of delivering the project was €555 million-€807 million.

But how long might commuters be waiting for such a project? Previous announcements might not instil too much confidence.


A quick search online of “Dart” and “Drogheda” unleashes throngs of speculation and celebratory announcements over the years, stretching as far back as 2014.

In September 2015 the government announced plans to extend the Dart line in Dublin to Balbriggan by 2022, with further plans to extend that to Drogheda. When 2022 came around, it was announced that a public consultation had begun on the preferred route.

Just 14 months ago, while announcing Government approval for a Dart expansion from Dublin city centre to Hazelhatch and Celbridge, Co Kildare, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said Dart services to Dublin city from Drogheda would be in place by 2025 through the introduction of new carriages.

But perhaps the extension’s most prominent declaration came in 2018 as part of the government’s “Project Ireland 2040”.

Both the upgrade and expansion of the existing Dart system, including the extension to Drogheda, as well as Dublin’s Metro, were set to be completed by 2027 under the plans.

However, announcing on Tuesday that the Dart+ Coastal North rail project was to enter the planning system by July, the Department of Transport said: “Subject to planning permission and funding arrangements, construction works on the route could commence later this decade, taking approximately three years to complete.”

“Could”, “later this decade” and “approximately” may not inspire much faith in the project’s timeliness.

However, “in the meantime”, and by 2026, the department said there would be a significant boost to rail services between Dublin and Drogheda through the roll-out of 65 new battery-electric Dart carriages.

When asked about the previous announcements concerning the project over the years, Mr Ryan said: “Well, it does take time to build public transport infrastructure in this country, it does take time.”

Mr Ryan stressed that as soon as the project was through the planning process, it would be built.

“There are a variety of different projects, what you want is a steady stream and a consistent policy,” he told RTÉ's News at One.

There are indeed a variety of different projects which spring to mind when rail projects are announced or re-announced, including Dublin’s Metro.

An early form of Dublin’s MetroLink was first agreed in 2000, and in 2002 shortly after a new government was formed, then minister for public enterprise Mary O’Rourke announced the beginning of the tendering process for the first line.

At the time, she said she hoped the initial route would be built by 2007.

Other examples include a Luas line to Lucan which has been in government’s plans since 2000, and despite a preferred alignment being chosen in 2008, the project was suspended in 2021 until at least 2031.

Other planned Luas lines to Finglas, Poolbeg and Bray were also suspended at the time.

Light rail systems in Cork and Galway have also been besieged since they were originally signalled by the Green Party in advance of the 2007 general election.

This month, Mr Ryan said a feasibility study concerning a Luas in Galway, or “GLuas” as it has become fondly known, was now “substantially complete” and once a draft Galway Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy was finalised, a public consultation would be held.

Cork’s proposed Luas is miles ahead, but still seemingly static. In 2019 the €1 billion light rail system between Ballincollig and Mahon Point was the most significant aspect of the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy through to 2040.

The route of the Luas was due to be announced in the summer of 2022, before being delayed until July 2023. The announcement was then put off until late 2023 and again to early 2024, yet remains nowhere to be seen.