PLANS TO UPGRADE and integrate rail services in the greater Dublin area were presented to Ireland's Parliamentary Transport Committee by Iarnród Éireann Managing Director Joe Meagher at the end of February.

The €3bn package envisages development of frequent commuter services to nearly all towns within 100 km of the capital. Meagher said that if the work was fast-tracked with sufficient funding, it could be completed by 2010.

The biggest element is a €1·3bn cross-city tunnel with five stops, linking IE's main Dublin stations, and opening up the potential for through services. It would connect with the proposed metro line to Dublin Airport.

Other projects include the extension of the 1·5 kV DC DART electrification to Drogheda, Maynooth and Kildare; further quadrupling of key routes to segregate suburban and main line traffic, especially on the Dublin - Maynooth corridor; up to 10 new stations and additional rolling stock to work the extra services.

Short-term projects already underway include extending DART trains to eight cars, four-tracking on the Heuston - Kildare route, signalling improvements and the purchase of additional DMUs and EMUs.

Committee Chairman Eoin Ryan said the scheme offered 'a fantastic integrated system [which] would really make a huge difference to maximising public use of the rail network.' Meagher agreed that 'commuter rail has enormous potential if properly developed', noting that IE can only provide limited capacity in the Dublin region at present because it is under-resourced.