LAST MONTH saw the start of work on the €170m first phase of the DART & Suburban Enhancement Project to expand commuter services in the Dublin area. Due to be completed by mid-2005, the project includes platform lengthening to ensure that all 30 stations on the DART network will be able to accommodate eight-car trains, compared to the present limit of six. Iarnród Éireann is buying 40 new DART carriages from Mitsui of Japan at a cost of €80m; these are due to go into service by early 2005.

New stations are to be built at Bayside and Howth Junction, and access at all stations for mobility-impaired passengers will be fully upgraded. Other work will include power supply improvements, and new storage facilities for the enlarged DART rolling stock fleet. When the project is completed, capacity on the cross-city axis between Pearse and Connolly stations will be increased by over 30% from 11800 to 16000 passengers/h.

Under the €70m second phase of DASH, due to start in 2005, the city centre section will be resignalled to increase capacity from 12 to 16 trains/h. The DASH programme is being funded by the Irish government under its National Development Plan for 2000-06.

A longer-term plan now being prepared envisages quadrupling of the northern corridor between Connolly and Howth Junction at a cost of €300m, to segregate DART trains from local commuter trains and inter-city services on the Dublin - Belfast route.