The NTA has now started work on reviewing transport strategy.

Wheels start rolling on rail line study

PAUL MURPHY

The first steps in getting an assessment study under way into the need for a new rail link between Navan and Dublin were made in the last few days when the high-powered strategic policy committees of Meath County Council sat down for talks with National Transport Authority officials and consultants.

Arrangements were made by the NTA last year to get a study into the viability of the rail link in progress and consultants Aecom were appointed to carry out an in-depth analysis of the case for extending the link from the Parkway station to the Meath town. The project had been shelved since 2016.

At that time it was assessed that there was insufficient prospective commuter traffic to justify the development of a high-capacity rail line. Instead, it was proposed to enhance the bus service. However, there have been calls from civic leaders, business groups and commuters for the rail line to be put in place.

Meath county councillors had also been pressing for an input into the assessment study and last Thursday a formal meeting under the chairmanship of the council cathaoirleach Cllr David Gilroy with all the chairpersons of the council’s strategic policy committees, the NTA and the consultants met for what was described by Mr Gilroy as “a productive and informative meeting”.

The NTA has now started work on reviewing transport strategy and intends to publish a draft transport strategy covering the period 2022 to 2041 around the middle of this year.

The authority has appointed a technical consultant to develop the assessment study incorporating a comprehensive business case analysis in relation to the potential extension of the rai line from M3 Parkway to Navan.

Among the objectives of the study will be to validate that the route identified in the draft environmental impact statement prepared by Irish Rail in 2011 remains available for construction and has not been compromised; to develop a cost estimate of the project inclusive of all direct and indirect costs, plus an appropriate allowance for contingency and inflation; to establish a projection of population and employment growth within the catchment area of the project in collaboration with the county council, Fingal County Council and the NTA. The possible benefits of extending the rail line will also be studied.

The council’s strategic policy committees had their own meetings to discuss how a rail line extension might benefit their particular areas. Councillors insisted that the rail route should be as close to Ratoath and Dunshaughlin as possible and that potential users should not have to cross the R147 and M3 to get to a train station. They also wanted to ensure that the “actual” population of Dunshaughlin and not the County Development Plan figures should be used as these were out of date. Stress was put on the claim that a business case for the rail link would benefit from the rail line passing between Ratoath and Dunshaughlin as this would increase the population within a short distance of the line.

Councillors also felt that car parks at stations needed to be of sufficient size to cater for the rural population around each station. Train stations would need to be placed from the North and East of Navan, and the catchment areas for a train should also include Cavan and Monaghan. It wasn’t just a question of getting a link from Navan to Dublin – traffic from the city to Co Meath for tourism or other purposes would also be important, they said.

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