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SOS – SAVE OUR SERVICE – DART+ Public Meeting – Special Report

Wednesday evening (May 7, 2023) saw residents from Howth, Sutton, Baldoyle and Bayside stand in line as they took their seats for the DART+ Coastal North Public Meeting. Organised by Joan Hopkins (Cllr. Social Democrats) and Cian O’Callaghan T.D. (Social Democrats), the event kicked off with an address from the joint chairs who outlined the current stage of DART+ planning as provided by Irish Rail.

At its core, plans include:

Reduction of direct services between Howth and Connolly;

Operation of shuttle service so commuters will change at Howth Junction;

The addition of a shuttle service to cater for the reduction in the direct connection to the city centre.

All attending expressed their outright rejection of Irish Rail’s plans and while the downgrade in the DART service was the main tenet of objections, concerns were expressed for the indirect problems that will ensue, including:

The impact of a closed rail crossing for almost 30 minutes at peak traffic times (at Sutton X and Baldoyle Road);

Safety concerns for commuters at Howth Junction DART station;

The likely prospect of a shuttle, full of city-bound passengers expecting to be accommodated on a (possibly) already overcrowded train, en route from Drogheda;

The dislocation for local tourism as a result of a two-legged trek from Dublin to Howth;

And the direction of Fingal’s Active Travel Plan following a significant reduction in public transport services in the area.

Speaking from the floor, an impassioned Helen Gilmore of the Howth Sutton Community Council took the lead by highlighting that this DART+ plan was by no means a done deal, that the 150+ years of direct rail access between Howth and the city must be respected, before going on to outline how representation by the Howth Sutton Council had terminated Dublin Bus’ own grand plan, BusConnect which envisaged a similar downgrade in direct bus connectivity to the city centre.

Other speakers provided their own criticisms, suggestions and anecdotes, including the lack of Leap card terminals, the undue wait time of rail crossing closures in the area, while one informed contributor suggested that this whole Irish Rail plan was lacking in ambition and that the DART+ plan was merely a sticking plaster to force more traffic down only one rail line, when the real solution lay in the addition of a second rail line.

Summing up, Cian O’Callaghan and Joan Hopkins confirmed to attendees that the expressed will of locals can derail Irish Rail’s plans and encouraged the assembled to make submissions before June 21 to Irish Rail on this link below.

Link: https://www.dartplus.ie/en-ie/projects/dart-north/public-consultation-round-2/how-to-engage-contact-us

Note: Submissions need not be highbrow but should outline one’s personal perspective and concerns, including the lack of a risk assessment, the impact for wheelchair and disabled users, as well as the additional challenge posed by the arrival 5,000 new residents that have not been calibrated into Irish Rail plans.

Attendees were also encouraged to call Irish Rail to air their views – tel: (01) 836 6222

And to contact other local public representatives to demand immediate action:

Cllr. Jimmy Guerin: 0860143346; Cllr. David Healy: 0876178852; Cllr. Aoibhinn Tormey: 0877546258; Denise Mitchell T.D.: 018472902; Richard Bruton T.D.: 01-6183103; Aodhan O’Riordan: 01-6183209; Sean Haughey T.D.: 0873494888.

The attendance of 200 plus spoke volumes for the concern of a community who realise that Irish Rail’s proposals amount not just to a downgrade in services, but a considerable downgrade for the whole area.

All were asked to make their objections known to Irish Rail, TFI (Transport for Ireland) and their local representatives.

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