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Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Dock station in 2001 The Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) is a suburban railway system in Dublin, Ireland, running primarily along the coastline of Dublin Bay, from Greystones in Wicklow to Howth and Malahide. Trains are electric, running from a 1500 Volts Direct current overhead power supply. The DART system is administered by the national rail operator, Iarnr�d �ireann (Irish Rail). At the time of its inception in 1984, the DART was run by Coras Iompair �ireann (CIE), of whom Iarnr�d �ireann is now a subsidiary. Part of the DARTs route, from the city centre to Dun Laoghaire, is of historical note � it was one of the first railways in Ireland, opening as the Dublin and Kingstown Railway in 1834.

Development, and Redevelopment, of the DART

The original DART service, provided from 1984 onwards, ran from Howth, a fishing village to the north of Dublin city centre, through the city centre stations of Connolly Station, Tara Street, and Pearse Station, to the port suburb of Dun Laoghaire and terminated at Bray. This was the route for some 15 years, when the electrification was extended south one stop to Greystones, and North from Howth Junction two stops along the Belfast main line to Malahide (the current route is schematically shown in the map below). In the early 1980s, in preparation for electrification, two new stations were provided which at the time were not in use by the existing diesel-electric service. Sandymount station at Sandymount Avenue was opened where a station had previously stood and a station called Salthill was built at the original terminus of the railway between Seapoint and Dun Laoghaire to the north of the West Pier. At the time of the electrification work in 1981-1982, the former branch to the railway station at Dun Laoghaire pier used by ferry passengers was disconnected as the main track had to be lowered in order to fit the overhead power cables under road bridges in Dun Laoghaire, some ten years later a brand new passenger ferry terminal was built immediately adjacent to the main Dun Laoghaire station.

Operational Details

The service is provided by a mixed fleet of electric multiple unit trains. 38 two-car sets by LHB of Germany � built in 1983, five two-car sets by Alstom of Barcelona, Spain � built in 1999 and most recently 17 four-car Japanese-built sets by Tokyu Car of Yokohama between 2000 and 2004. They normally run coupled as six-car trains in the peak periods (which typically are between 07:00-09:30 and 17:00-18:30) and four-car trains at other times. Japanese sets typically operate with an Alstom unit to make a six-car train. Work is currently ongoing to allow the original LHB sets to work in tandem with the newer built sets. 40 two-car trainsets were purchased initially � two were subsequently lost in a fire in 2001. DART now carries in excess of 80,000 passengers daily, and continued demand for increased capacity means that as of 2004 work that began in 2003 is currently in hand to strengthen power supplies to allow the use of eight-car trains. As far as manpower is concerned, each train is driven by a single person from the front cab (attached to the leading carraige). All trains have automatic doors under the control of the driver. All trains in the Dublin suburban area including DART are monitored and regulated by a Central Traffic Control (CTC) facility based in Connolly Station known as Suburban CTC. Passenger information in the form of electronic information displays on each platform are updated in real time based on the progress of trains. Automatic public address announcements are made in the event of delays, these announcements are tailored to each station. Thanks to extensive computer automation the main control room is staffed by only 4 people. Two signalmen, one with responsibility for level crossings, an electrical control officer (ECO) who supervises the electrical power supply equipment and an overall supervisor. Only the CTC control room is normally staffed, backup local control rooms are provided in the event of serious technical problems allowing services to continue. Journeys require a prepaid ticket to be purchased before beginning. A typical one way ticket would cost about �1.60-2.00, which for comparison, is about the price of a daily paper. To gain access to the platform, tickets must be electronically validated by passing the ticket through a special machine � the underside of the ticket is automatically printed with the date, time and a 3 digit code representing the station in which the ticket was validated. Ticket checks on the trains themselves are relatively rare and mainly occur during off peak. Most tickets are checked on arrival at the destination, but the main form of fraud prevention remains the inital validation. DART services begin at about 06:30 on weekday mornings, and finish before midnight. No DART services are run on Christmas Day or on the following day known in Ireland as St. Stephens Day, a national holiday.

DARTs Competitors

Iarnr�d �ireann currently operate a monopoly on Irish rail passenger transport. The only other company to operate on lines in the Republic of Ireland is Northern Ireland Railways (part of Translink). A number of other transport modes are available in Dublin. Apart from the two most popular modes of transport, which are walking and private vehicle, the CI� owned Dublin Bus is virtually ubiquitous, running all over the city. As such, it has many routes that run somewhat parallel to DART for stretches. However, it does not have any scheduled routes that traverse the entire length of the DART line. By and large, integration of bus services as feeder services for railway stations is minimal throughout Ireland, as well as in Dublin. However, there are some specific destinations (e.g. Dublin Airport, which has no direct rail service) that have buses providing feeder services to a DART station. Due to a lack of integrated ticketing, amongst other problems, these services are not widely used. The LUAS (pronounced LOO-ASS), which partially integrates with the DART at Connolly Station, is not seen as a competitor, as neither of its routes run along similar routes to DART.

Criticism of DART

Some aspects of the DART system may constitute fundamental structural shortcomings. Paramount amongst these is the non-exclusive nature of the railway route used. Apart from the short distance between Howth Junction and Howth/Malahide, DART shares its tracks with mainline services to Belfast in the north of Ireland and Rosslare in the south east, as well as non-DART commuter DMUs (known as Commuter services). Connolly Station is also shared with services to and from Sligo and Commuter services to the northwest of the city. Iarnr�d �ireann hope to separate the northwestern non-DART services from Connolly, running them below the northern line to a planned new station east of Connolly, Spencer Dock. The current shared line system means that an increase in frequency for the DART is almost impossible, thus although they are advertised as being every 10 minutes average times are 15-25 minutes. Although frequency on the DART is capped by accommodating other services, often DART services have priority, causing delays for the higher speed DMUs and locomotive-hauled trains. There are plans to quadruple-track the route for some distance north of Connolly station to alleviate rail congestion at peak times. Some critics focus on the lack of capacity on the system at peak times, and also the skeletal patronisation of some services outside peak times. However, this is an unavoidable problem, that the national road network also suffers from. There are plans however to increase overall capacity, in an attempt to alleviate severe overcrowding on the worst affected peak services. As of January 2005, major development works have been ongoing across the DART system to lengthen platforms at suburban stations so that they can accommodate 8-car trains (currently 6-car DARTs run). This work has been mostly completed south of Pearse Station, and is currently underway on the northern section.The power grid that the DART uses is also being upgraded. Due to the work schedule chosen, no DART services run on the Northern section at weekends (the Southern section previously saw similar disruption, with more expected in the second half of 2005). At such times, would-be passengers are compelled to make other arrangements.

Integration with road traffic

A further pressing problem for the DART, and for some road traffic in Dublin, is the existence of level crossings along some of its length. Since the DART mostly runs at ground level, there are a number of places where the DART both meets and has to cross roads. The mechanism in place for this involves automatic half barriers to stop the flow of traffic along the road. This can cause localised traffic jams. This is widely seen as a design flaw, that could have been avoided at the time of electrification.

Criticism of the DART concept

Some Irish commentators have been strongly critical of the willingness of successive Irish governments to invest in fixed line transport, such as the DART and LUAS. While some argue that the mass transport needs of the people of Dublin could be met both cheaper and quicker by investment in buses and bus lanes, others do not necessarily agree (it has been argued that bus lanes have higher maintanance costs than rail if carrying the same volume of traffic).

DART stations

One of the best-known stations is at Lansdowne Road, the home of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and the venue for Irish rugby and soccer international matches. Further south, the train stops at Sydney Parade Avenue, a street of some Georgian and many Edwardian and Victorian red-brick houses in the Dublin embassy belt. It is believed that the former station at Merrion Gates, between Sydney Parade Avenue and Booterstown will be redeveloped in the near future, though this awaits confirmation.

List of DART stations

North of Howth Junction Malahide, Portmarnock Northeast of Howth Junction Howth, Sutton, Dublin, Bayside South of Howth Junction Howth Junction, Kilbarrack, Raheny, Harmonstown, Killester, Clontarf Road, Connolly Station South of the River Liffey Tara Street Station, Pearse Station, Grand Canal of Ireland, Lansdowne Road, Sandymount, Sydney-Parade-Avenue, Booterstown, Blackrock, Seapoint, Salthill & Monkstown, Dublin, D�n Laoghaire, Sandycove & Glasthule, Glenageary, Dalkey, Killiney, Shankill, Bray, Greystones


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