Will the new DART add up? Explaining ‘DART+ South West’

An ambitious plan by Irish Rail will see the DART network greatly expanded.

The DART is the electric suburban rail line that stretches from Malahide to Greystones. This is the route that the network has adhered to for most of its 40 years. But this is soon going to change. 

An ambitious project from Irish Rail will see the DART network expanded from the current 50km line to a network of over 150km. 

This will see services cover as far north as Drogheda and west to Maynooth and will see much of this network being electrified. All of this is under the banner of ‘DART+’. 

DART+ aims to double number of trains running across the greater Dublin area and will see an expansion of electrification to cut down on carbon emissions. 

The programme covers five areas: DART+ Coastal North, Coastal South, West, and South West.

Coastal North will expand the network up to Drogheda; Coastal South will enhance travel on the existing line to Greystones; West extends the network to Maynooth and M3 Parkway; and South West will bring it to Hazelhatch & Cellbridge. 

It is this line to Hazelhatch that will see a lot of changes for commuters around and through the Liberties, as much of the work will expand Heuston Station. 

DART+ South West promises to increase the frequency of services between Heuston and Hazelhatch & Celbridge. Services will almost double, from 12 an hour at present, up to 23 an hour, with a bigger increase in passenger capacity – from 5,000 to 20,000 per hour, per direction. 

Trains will stop at Park West & Cherry Orchard, Clondalkin/ Fonthill, the soon-to-open Kishoge, and Adamstown along the way. 

This will involve new tracks and two new stations – the aforementioned Kishoge, which was completed in 2009 but will open this year, and Heuston West. Heuston West will be built in the area of Platform 10 at Heuston, which has seen little use since its construction. 

Currently, commuter services from County Kildare to Grand Canal Dock use the Phoenix Park Tunnel, near where platform 10 is located, but do not have a Heuston stop. 

The proposed Heuston West will allow greater connectivity between commuter towns and the city centre, and also connect existing commuter services and future DART+ services to the proposed Metrolink station at Glasnevin, and the DART+ West line to Maynooth. 

It is proposed that some DART+ services will terminate at Heuston Station. 

Another major aspect of the DART+ programme is the renewal of the existing DART fleet.  Many of the trains in use are of the original stock from 1984 and are now 40 years old. Up to 750 new electric and battery-electric rail cars have been ordered by Irish Rail from French manufacturer Alstom. 

The new trains are being built in Poland and will be wider and more accessible for passengers. 

These new trains have been receiving a lot of media attention recently, and you can watch a tour of them here. 

They will feature steps that extend to the platform to allow for easier access, more space for passengers and wheelchair users, and bigger gangways to create more space. Electric models will operate where there are existing overhead wires, such as on the current network. 

“The trains demonstrate Irish Rail’s intention to move quickly to decarbonise the commuter network in Greater Dublin, Ireland’s most populous suburban area,” managing director of Alstom UK and Ireland Nick Crossfield said at the prototype’s unveiling last year.

It is planned to electrify the whole DART+ network, but in the meantime, battery-electric models will allow the use of overhead wires where available, and battery power where the wires have yet to be installed. These batteries will have a range of 80km. 

DART+ South West is aiming to commence service in 2029, but the first of the new DART trains are due to arrive later this year and enter service in 2025. 

You can read more about the DART+ programme here.

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