Below you can read the submission I made as part of the non-statutory public consultation on the ’emerging preferred option’ set out by Irish Rail.
Re: Public Consultation on Dart + Projection (Maynooth Line)
As a resident of Dublin 15 and a long-time user of Irish Rail services, I am very pleased to see the progression of plans to electrify the Maynooth line under Dart+ West. The electrification of the line has the potential to provide an efficient means of transferring the large and growing population of the Dublin 15 area in and out of the City. This can help alleviate traffic congestion which is a significant problem in Dublin West. Even as levels of commuting are currently low due to Covid, we know that this will change. Dart+ will be of huge benefit to the entire west Dublin and north Kildare region.
While I am absolutely committed to the delivery of this project, I have a number of concerns in relation to this initial public consultation phase. I outlined them in a recent meeting with Irish Rail Chief Executive Jim Meade, and project manager, Peter Muldoon. I’ve also spoken to the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and outlined to him the very serious issues with the current emerging preferred route.
I would like to take this opportunity to submit them as part of the public consultation and have set out my points of concern below.
The initial timeframe allocated to the public consultation was much too short given the Covid context that we are living in. Although the consultation period was extended, twice, following requests from myself and other politicians, I am still receiving representations from residents who were only made aware very recently that a consultation is happening. Given the significant impact of the ‘emerging preferred option’, I feel that a significant amount of time should have been allocated to enable proper engagement with the consultation.
I hope that Irish Rail takes this on board for future public consultations while we are living with Covid19. Sufficient time must be allocated to allow for proper public engagement and feedback without the need for local residents to put themselves at risk by going door to door to alert each other to the existence of a public consultation. To raise awareness in future consultations, I suggest that Irish Rail should put up posters advertising the consultation around train stations and in the areas where the route will have a direct impact on people. I would also ask Irish Rail to review the quality of the images it has used on its website and the very accessibility of its website. The latter compares poorly to the detailed and easy-to-access websites that were used by the NTA during the BusConnects process.
Coolmine level crossing
I would like to especially emphasise the huge impact that the ‘emerging preferred option’ for Coolmine would have on the amenity of the estates nearby. The proposed bridge from St Mochtas/Stationcourt into Riverwood Court will result in the loss of green spaces which are used by the local community. In the instance of the apartments at Station Court – this green space is the only place where children who live in the apartments can play outside their homes. As well as the immediate visual impact of the large bridge, it must be kept in mind that this proposal would result in all the traffic that currently uses the Coolmine Road now diverting through these residential estates, again having a major impact on amenity and quality of life. In combination, the resulting noise, air and light pollution from the bridge will have negative impact for those residents who are used to living in quiet and safe cul de sacs.
The matrices used to select the ‘emerging preferred option’ in this area also give cause for concern. Several discrepancies have been identified which suggest that the selection of option 3 as the ‘emerging preferred option’ is problematic. I have previously drawn these issues to the attention of Jim Meade and Peter Muldoon.
In particular, there are real concerns about the two multi-criteria analysis matrices provided in Annex 9.3A and 9.3B. I note that in a number of places on both matrices, the language used to summarize the assessment of the various options and the colour codes allocated were either inconsistent, or fully contradictory. While the point has been made that some of the this is down to judgement calls, nevertheless in a number of places there are clear inconsistencies that cannot be explained on the basis of a judgment call. As the matrices are fundamental to the choice of the Road Bridge over the Royal Canal as the ‘emerging preferred option’ for Coolmine, it is my view that it is not sufficient to correct any mistakes in the matrices later in the process, but rather that these errors should be corrected now.
In light of these concerns about the impact of the bridge and road and the questions about the selection criteria, I would call on Irish Rail to widen out the range of alternatives it is looking at for the Coolmine level crossing, including looking at an alternative that keeps the level crossing open, at least for non-rush hour times. I accept that during the 7-9am and 5-7pm rush hours, with the increased level of DART services projected, it is likely that the level crossing would have to be constantly closed. I would also support a pedestrian/cyclist bridge still being used in this scenario.
I do not believe that the current emerging route proposal for this level crossing is the right approach to take and I would call on Irish Rail not to pursue it.
Ashtown level crossing
My main concerns about the Ashtown level crossing and underpass are in relation to the inclusion of a new drop off zone at Ashtown Station, safety of pedestrians and cyclists and ease of access to the station platforms.
From the map of the ‘emerging preferred option’, a new drop off zone will be built at Ashtown Station. This drop off zone will be constructed over what is currently a green space and will result in the loss of trees and hedges. As one of the main aims of Dart+ is to reduce the reliance on private cars and reduce the volume of traffic on our roads I question the validity of the inclusion of the drop off zone.
While I welcome the separate pedestrian and cycle paths in the underpass, I have received representations from locals who are concerned about how well the underpass will be lit up. In order to ensure the safety of those pedestrians and cyclists who use the underpass I would like to request that Irish Rail ensure adequate lighting is put in place.
At all the other level crossings which are being removed as part of the ‘emerging preferred option’, I note the inclusion of a pedestrian and cycle bridge in place of the level crossing. However, no such bridge has been included at the Ashtown level crossing. This means that anyone who wishes to access the platform on the opposite side needs to go through the underpass. Additionally, many of those living in the estates near the Ashtown level crossing shop locally in the shops on the other side of the level crossing and this will be made more difficult if the only route to them is via the underpass. I would like to propose that Irish Rail investigate the possibility of installing a pedestrian and cycle bridge over the railway at the original level crossing in line with what it has proposed at other level crossings.
In the cross section showing the underpass which is the ‘emerging preferred option’ there is a proposed relocation of the Ashtown House gates. I would like to highlight the fact that these gates are a part of Ashtown House, which is a protected structure and that any proposed work in the area should be cognisant of that fact.
I hope Irish Rail can take these points on board as a positive contribution to help deliver DART+ West in a way that does not unfairly impact some of the communities living closest to the development. I look forward to continued engagement with Irish Rail throughout this consultation process.
Roderic O’Gorman TD
 From Fingal Development Plan 2017-2023, Appendix 2, RPS No 0690