Wednesday, 20 May 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
12. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if her Department have yet completed their consideration of the consultants report on the costs and benefits of the proposed upgrading of the Dublin-Belfast rail line; whether any decision has yet been made on the issue; if any further discussions are planned with the authorities in Northern Ireland and the European Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
22. Mr. Byrne asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if, in regard to the announcement made following the meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference on 27 April, regarding the upgrading of the Dublin-Belfast rail line, she will outline the total budget for the plan, including the amount to be contributed from the Irish Exchequer; when it is expected that work will be commenced and when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
23. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if she will give details of the recent agreement between the EC authorities and the Irish and British Governments in upgrading the Belfast-Dublin railway line; and if she will outline (a) the total cost of the project, (b) the period over which its money is to be spent, (c) the cost to the Exchequer and (d) the proposed level of service to passengers to be provided when the developmental works are completed.
Arising from the consultant's report on the Dublin-Belfast line, which was commissioned by my Department, the Northern Ireland Authorities and the European Commission, the Irish and British Governments announced approval for the upgrading of the line at the recent meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference.
The project will involve investment of IR£73 million and will be completed within five years. It is expected that preparatory work in connection with the project will commence shortly. The total cost of the works on the southern side of the Border amounts to over IR£42 million. The European Community will fund 75 per cent of the cost of the work on the southern side with the balance being financed by Iarnród Éireann from their own resources.
The project involves the upgrading of track and signalling and the provision of new rolling stock to enhance the quality of services on the line. The line will be upgraded to permit speeds of 145 kilometres per hour — 90 mph — which will reduce the journey time between Dublin and Belfast by up to 20 minutes. When the project is completed it is envisaged that eight trains per day in each direction will be operated on the line.
Mr. Byrne: I warmly welcome the decision to effect this line improvement along with a comparable improvement in the quality of the rolling stock and locomotives since we had been demanding such improvement for a very long time. Given the incredible sum of money to be injected into this project — £73 million — in addition to the existing value of the line and infrastructure, will the Minister say what steps she will take to protect the security of the line which has been closed on such a regular basis by  IRA activities? I contend she must address this problem if that line is to remain permanently open in the future. Would she say what future steps she might take, along with her parliamentary colleagues, to ensure that this vital infrastructure is retained for the betterment of passengers from Northern Ireland and the Republic?
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: All of us would share the distress the Deputy has outlined in relation to the many times the railway line from Dublin to Belfast has had to be closed. This is an issue which has been raised consistently at the Anglo-Irish Conference by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Justice and which will continue to be monitored on that basis. Indeed that is the proper forum within which both authorities, north and south of the Border, should continue to co-operate to ensure that such incidents are at least minimalised and, hopefully, arrested altogether.
Mr. Yates: Would the Minister not agree that five years would seem to be a very long period within which to have this work carried out? Would she consider having that timescale shortened at all so that this project would become a reality must faster? Would she say what proportion of the £42 million — that is the Republic's share — is being borne by the EC and what proportion by our Exchequer?
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Of the £42 million the European Community is funding 75 per cent of the cost, the balance being financed by Iarnród Éireann. I am assured that five years is the normal length of time required to undertake the amount of work involved.
Mr. Bell: I join my colleagues in welcoming this development. I say that as somebody who lives virtually on that railway line. Would the Minister avail of this opportunity to state clearly that IRA activities, particularly north of my constituency, will not be allowed to influence in any way any decision in relation to  this development, that there will be no backing away from it on that account? Will the Minister say whether the service will be improved since there are at present substantial, continuous complaints being made about the service, particularly that from Drogheda to Dublin with regard to timekeeping, the locomotives breaking down and so on?
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: The decision on the part of both Governments indicates that they will not be influenced in any way by the activities of paramilitaries from one side or other of the community. The Deputy will appreciate that the total investment of £73 million is an indication of the type of work that will be undertaken on the line to render it of the standard we would expect from that type of line.
Mr. D. Ahern: Like my colleagues, I, too, welcome this announcement. Would the Minister give the House some details of any improvements that may be made to Dundalk and Drogheda railway stations which are badly in need of some improvement? I understand that there may be some funds spent on them. Perhaps the Minister might have some details to impart to us in that respect.
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