Richard Efemena has been sitting at a bus stop on Sarsfield Road in Ballyfermot for 18 minutes, waiting for the 79 to take him into town.
From there, he’ll hop on another bus to Clare Hall for his night shift, he says. The journey usually takes him just under an hour.
If an electric-rail station were nearby, perhaps near the bridge over Sarsfield Road, or off Landen Road to the west, his journey might be faster.
An electric-rail station that could, say, link into the DART+ South West plans.
The DART+ South West plans are an Irish Rail proposal to build another line that would go from Hazelhatch east to stops at Adamstown, Clondalkin, Park West, and Heuston – and north to Glasnevin and over to Connolly.
It would mean fast and frequent trains for commuters living along the route, say the plans.
New stops on the route wouldn’t be built at the same time, the plans say, so for now, the line would pass through places like Kylemore and Cabra without picking up passengers.
Locals and councillors say they can’t understand why the plans don’t include more immediate moves for stations in these neighbourhoods – and that they need them.
No new stations are being provided as part of the project, said Jane Cregan, spokesperson for Irish Rail.
“We’ve had calls for new stations to be included,” she said, “but it’s not currently within the scope of projects. This is a capacity enhancement project.”
Irish Rail takes direction for the project from the National Transport Authority’s (NTA’s) Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy, which doesn’t include new stations, she said.
Cregan said that Irish Rail encourages people to submit to the public consultation that runs until 23 June.
Dermot O’Gara, the NTA’s head of public affairs, said: “If communities have particular views or concerns about the proposals, we’d encourage them to make a submission to that effect.”
Efemena says he thinks there should be a station built on Sarsfield Road or nearby because it can take a long time to get anywhere on the bus. “It’s far to everywhere,” he says.
“It will be beneficial because the DART takes more [people]. Before the bus comes from Park West to here, it’s filled up,” he says.
Some Ballyfermot residents have said they would be delighted if a DART stopped on Kylemore Road.
Although initially included in earlier DART+ South West plans, now, only provisions for a future station will be made, according to the current plans.
A station in Kylemore Road would serve a densely populated area in huge need of public transport, says Vincent Jackson, an independent councillor.
Kylemore will have so many possible connections in the future, he says, such as the proposed Yellow Line of the Luas, which would connect the city centre with Lucan.
Francis Mahon, who lives on Sarsfield Road in Inchicore, says a more frequent service like the Luas would be great for his neighbourhood too.
“I have to say, the bus service is brilliant,” he says, “But the one good thing about the Luas is you go to the station, and it says 3 minutes, and that’s it.”
Irish Rail’smain report laying out options for the Dart route, doesn’t mention anything about a station in Inchicore.
Putting a station in Inchicore, which was proposed in the DART Underground plans, would make it compatible if that project was to be revisited, says Mark Gleeson, spokesperson for Rail Users Ireland, a rail-commuters’ organisation.
The DART Underground was planned to take passengers under the city from Inchicore to St Stephen’s Green and Grand Canal Docks, he says.
“Trying to do that journey today is a nightmare,” he says. “not that many people actually make that journey. The idea will be that you facilitate people making journeys with fewer connections, which is just like any major city in Europe.”
Across the city too in Cabra, local resident Sorcha Brennan, who lives near Cabra Road, says she can’t make sense of why a station isn’t being built there. “It doesn’t make sense not to do it now. It’s very short sighted,” she said.
The area of Cabra where she lives isn’t well served by public transport, she says.
Brennan, who has her baby in a buggy, says she often has to wait for a bus with space for them.
“That’s why I always walk the kilometer to the Luas because you’re more likely to get a spot on it, but that’s not doable for everybody.”
Cabra Road gets busy and doesn’t have a bus lane, she says. “I think a lot of people choose instead to either sit in traffic in their own car, rather than sitting on the bus.”
Louisa Moss, who lives nearby on Annamoe Road, says the traffic is getting heavy. “The way the population is rising here, we’ve got to make it as easy to commute as possible without using a car.”
Moss started a petition in a Dublin 7 Facebook group, she says. “It has over 200 signatures.”
Now or Later?
Stations will be built as part of their own project, says the options report, which notes how provisions are being made for them.
Cregan, Irish Rail spokesperson, said that the works for DART+ South West will not prevent the future development of stations.
Gleeson, spokesperson for Rail Users Ireland, disagrees. “In very simple terms, if that station doesn’t get built as part of the project, it’s not going to get built,” he says.
In Cabra for example, Gleeson says, where the track crosses Cabra Road and Old Cabra Road would be an ideal spot for the station to go in, with an entrance on each road.
“Going back to do it retrospectively, it’s just not going to happen, the disruption would be too much,” he says.
Declan Meenagh, a Labour councillor, says that people in Cabra will find it annoying that they will have to put up with works nearby, without benefitting from a station.
“The trains are already passing by. It’s actually a very simple ask,” he says.
“You do something at the beginning or else it’s never done for years,” says Vincent Jackson, the independent councillor, about a Kylemore Road station. “It would make common sense.”
Gleeson, of Rail Users Ireland, says that building more stations would not significantly increase journey times on the route.
“We’re going electric here. It’s gonna be a lot lot faster. And secondly, it’s gonna be a lot more frequent. You’re going to be talking every 10 minutes in the worst case in the future.”
How Much Would It Cost?
As Gleeson sees it, the focus is to complete the project as cheaply as possible. “Which isn’t very compatible with producing the best public service.”
There is one single budget for the DART+ Programme right now, said Cregan, including all the infrastructure projects and the new fleet.
“The total overall budget is €2.7 billion, which is subject to funding allocation,” she said.
The Department of Transport didn’t respond to queries on whether it has estimates for the cost of new stations, or whether the budget could be extended to build new stations.
Gleeson says he estimates that building three new stations could cost the guts of €50 million, with each station costing between €10 and €15 million.
“Given the works required, the fact that there’s a road bridge involved, wheelchair disability, lifts, etc, €10 or €15 million wouldn’t be far off,” he says.
Feljin Jose, spokesperson for the Dublin Commuter Coalition, says he doesn’t see how funding would be an issue.
“Obviously if you add all this up, yeah, it’s going to cost a little bit more, but that’s all just part of what’s involved in building infrastructure. That’s just what you need to do,” he says.
“Potential stations at Kylemore, Cabra and Sarsfield Rd, are not part of the current project scope, therefore the cost of provision of these potential stations is not being assessed as part of DART+ South West,” said Jane Cregan, spokesperson for Irish Rail.
Cost estimates are being developed for options for a potential future station at Heuston West, if this construction is approved by the NTA, she said.
O’Gara, spokesperson for the NTA, said to put queries to Irish Rail, which is responsible for the delivery of DART+ South West.
Buying Up Land
Irish Rail’s preliminary options report runs through the changes that would be needed to lay the extra tracks at different points and does consider how those changes may relate to plans for future stations.
The planned alignment of the extra tracks at Cabra is compatible with a future station, says the assessment report. A future station wouldn’t need “additional land acquisition outside of the existing rail corridor”, it says.
Kylemore Road Bridge needs significant works, says the report, and the proposal is to build a taller and wider bridge and lower the ground too.
The report mentions that land to the west of the bridge would be suitable for a station, but doesn’t mention anything about land acquisition.
“We have not assessed if the additional CPO would impact the project timeline,” said Cregan, from Irish Rail. “The amount of CPO required would depend upon the station design.”
Deciding to fund these stations is determined by the NTA, before Irish Rail undertakes feasibility studies, she said.
Gleeson, the spokesperson for Rail Users Ireland, says that going through the process of obtaining land by railway order could add at least a year to Irish Rail’s projected dates.. “It just takes an eternity.”
Compulsory purchase orders could end in the High Court, which would extend the wait too, he says.
Gleeson says he would have criteria for whether compulsory purchases are for the greater good: “Is the project necessary, and is what is proposed reasonable? We’d say yes.”
“There’s going to be a fair bit of land acquisition for the project anyway, especially between Park West and Heuston,” says Jose, of the Dublin Commuter Coalition.
Under Irish Rail’s projections, a detailed design and planning application will be made in 2022, and construction is planned to begin in 2023.
A Good Position to Be in
Stefania Rusu usually takes the bus from her house on First Avenue in Ballyfermot, to work near St Stephen’s Green. It’s a simple journey, she says, that she thinks takes way too long.
“I can be super late to work, I’ve found myself needed to pay for a taxi, because I was just way too late. And they’re taking so long, they’re way too slow.”
She has a car, and her fiancé sometimes takes her to work if he’s free, but if there was better transport she wouldn’t have bought it.
“I wish I was in an area where I could take that to work, rather than changing two buses because it’s definitely faster,” she says.
Jose says that having people wanting a station is a good position for Irish Rail to be in.
“We’re talking about building stations so that people can use the train,”says Jose. “There’s a very clear net positive here. People want to use public transport, so let them.”