DART Underground An Bord Pleanála Oral Hearing Presentation
Croke Park Friday 21st January 2011

I wish to start by stating that I am not opposed to the Dart Underground project. I am a consistent supporter of improved public transport provision in Dublin. Broadly speaking, the Dart Underground will be of benefit to the city and this must be welcomed. However, a benefit to the city and its citizens is not an excuse for ignoring the rights and concerns of any group of residents in the city. That is the central point I wish to make here today.


I am aware that this has been a very long hearing, and that there are still a large number of contributions to follow. With this in mind, I will keep my contribution brief, and will avoid duplicating material from other observers as much as possible.

I am aware that community organisations – The East Wall Residents Association, the Protect East Wall group, Parkside Residents in the North Strand, the North Port Dwellers and Ossory & District Residents Group, as well as a large number of individual residents are due to make their contributions next week. These contributions will cover in greater detail, and more specifically, many of the key concerns that I will touch upon. I wish to express my support for the residents and community group’s positions as communicated to me on numerous occasions recently. While I wish to broadly outline these concerns, I feel it is more appropriate to leave the specifics to those most directly affected.


 In my written submission I stated that the project “cannot be completed without a certain level of disruption. However, it is essential that this is kept to an absolute minimum, and measures to provide the utmost protection for residents are conditioned into the Bords decision.

  • Residents must be provided with protection to minimise the impact from:
    Noise, Dirt, Dust, vibrations and light pollution.

  • It is essential that mitigation measures, coupled with clear monitoring procedures are included. A clearly defined procedure for reporting and addressing all breaches of conditions must be provided.

  • A traffic management plan is of extreme importance and should aim to completely remove construction traffic from residential communities. A traffic plan should operate within the spirit of the HGV strategy operated by Dublin City Council.
  • A parking plan for construction phase workers is necessary to avoid increasing on-street parking on already congested residential streets.”

 

 I recognise these as key issues of concern which will be covered in greater detail by later contributors. Some of the residents due to contribute have suffered badly due to other construction works and I believe their testimony is particularly relevant, not just in describing the problems experienced but in stressing the importance of a complaints mechanism and effective enforcement options.
I also stated in my submission that   “A liaison committee, with representatives from the affected communities, Iarnrod Eireann, the contractors (and enforcement agencies if requested) should be established to address the ongoing construction issues that will affect residents.” 


Property Values

A point some residents will also make is that the value of their property will drop sharply during the construction phase - one auctioneer has estimated that values may drop by as much as 50%. The likelihood of selling a property in the vicinity of the main construction area will be next to impossible, and even during the operational phase houses prices are likely to suffer.


Flood Risk

Residents have also expressed concerns regarding increased flood risks as a consequence of this project. In 2002 a large part of East Wall was flooded from within lands owned by Iarnrod Eireann. There is still a large degree of anger about this. While flood prevention measures have since been implemented by other agencies, there is still an ongoing worry that something similar could happen again. Residents believe that building development over the last decade in the wider area has greatly affected the Water table, and that the underground construction of this project will cause further harm.


While the city will benefit from the project, there are no direct benefits to the communities most affected by the construction stages. I understand that residents will be seeking to address this failing in their individual and group submissions.


Docklands Rail Station

It is worth comparing the current project with the Docklands Rail Station constructed in 2006 and opened in 2007. The construction of this project caused very little disruption, and its operation is largely unobtrusive. However, through negotiations and in a spirit of respect some very positive benefits were delivered to the community by Iarnrod Eireann as part of the development.

  • Noise reduction barriers were erected throughout East Wall, addressing long term problems.
  • Railway embankments were planted to improve their appearance and new railings were erected, replacing ancient and collapsed wire mesh, providing aesthetic and safety improvements.
  • Negotiations begun at this time also led to the extension of the 151 bus route from the city centre to the Docklands Station, using a route that includes East Wall. (This service has been hugely successful).

These were real benefits, delivered to the local community as part of a project that had no significant negative impacts.

Contrast this with the current Dart Underground application, which will create major disruption and difficulties for certain areas, but will deliver no direct benefits whatsoever. Residents have expressed the view that this project represents “all pain no gain” for them and it is impossible not to agree with this. Some degree of balance must be possible.


Aside from the Construction issues; there are also issues that will arise during the operational period. Again, I believe these will be covered by the affected residents in their own contributions.


With reference to my submission concerning the post construction phase of Dart Underground I would like to highlight the following:


The sound barriers erected throughout East Wall have proven effective, but may need to be increased to provide extra noise reduction in the operational phase. The use of such barriers should be extended to the North Strand side of the track, and also to other areas such as North Wall, Ossory Road etc that do not currently benefit from this protection. If there are reasons why these barriers are not effective at certain locations an alternative protection must be considered.


The quality of landscaping and railings used in East Wall is a marked improvement on what is provided elsewhere, and should be offered at other locations, most obviously along Stoney Road, in consultation with existing residents.”


Cycle Route
Another issue which has been of central concern to East Wall Residents is the proposed re-location of the bridge on West Road. In my written submission I stated:


“Residents in East Wall will suffer a major impact due to the relocation of the bridge on West Road. The possibility of an alternative re-alignment that would not necessitate this should be examined. If an alternative is not feasible, then the responsibility lies with Iarnrod Eireann to demonstrate this conclusively.”


As a City Councillor, I was involved in the discussions regarding a proposed cycle route along West Road. Over a period of time, the design of the cycle route changed. To preserve resident’s on-street parking, it was agreed to implement a cycle way as opposed to a cycle path, introduce chicanes and reduce the speed limit. This eliminated the width of a cycle path along West Road. Since then, the proposal for this cycle route has been dropped by Dublin City Council. In my opinion, the extra width allowed for the cycle route in the span of the proposed bridge is no longer necessary or justified.


Consultation


A final point I would like to raise is in relation to the consultation process engaged in by Iarnrod Eireann. I am aware that there is dissatisfaction at the level of consultation that has taken place. There are concerns regarding transparency issues and at the commitment of Iarnrod Eireann to a genuine engagement. The residents and Community groups will be dealing with this in greater detail, and I wish to state my view that they are correct in criticising the process as inadequate and unacceptable.


A particular example of this lack of transparency was the decision to have all the tunnel boring launched in East Wall.

Inchicore residents were notified of this decision on 23rd April 2010 but it was not disclosed to the East Wall residents at the DART Underground Presentation in the Sean O’Casey Centre in May 2010.  The residents of East Wall only knew of this decision through an article published in The Irish Times on 1st July 2010.  
I believe this sums up Iarnrod Eireanns disregard for the residents of East Wall, North Strand and North Wall. The decision to launch all tunnelling work from East Wall was a major decision, with significant impacts. It was also a change from what had been presented to residents and City Councillors at the various meetings and presentations that had taken place previously. Yet the first indication that residents or public representatives in Dublin Central received of this fact was when they read it in the Irish Times.


Another example of the lack of consultation was the refusal by Iarnrod Eireann to provide a Environmental Impact Study Presentation to East Wall residents yet such a presentation had been given to Inchicore residents in November 2009.
In conclusion, I just want to stress what I said at the beginning -  I am not opposed to the Dart Underground project but the communities affected most by the construction of the project must not suffer unnecessarily. I fully support the stance taken by residents in trying to protect themselves, their homes and their community.


I trust the Bord will take all these concerns on board. 
I would like to thank the Bord for providing the opportunity for me to outline my concerns.


Cieran discussing the DART Underground project with Tony Kelly of the East Wall Residents Association