Dublin Area Rapid Transit

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Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART)
Dublin Area Rapid Transit Logo.svg
Howth Junction railway station in 2007.jpg
An 8500 Class DART train (8601) at Howth Junction
Other name(s)DART
OwnerIarnród Éireann
TypeCommuter Rail
Operator(s)Iarnród Éireann
Depot(s)Fairview DART depot
Rolling stock8100 Class
8500, 8510 and 8520 Classes
Ridership20 million per year
Opened23 July 1984
23 July 1984Line opens
10 April 2000Line expanded to Malahide and Greystones
Line length53 km (33 mi)
Number of tracks1–2
Track gauge1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
Electrification1500 V DC Overhead Line
Operating speed100 km/h (62 mph)
Route map

Malahide Bus interchange
Sutton Bus interchange
Harmonstown Bus interchange
Clontarf Road
Fairview Depot
Dublin Connolly
Luas Bus interchange
Tara Street Bus interchange
Dublin Pearse
Grand Canal Dock
Lansdowne Road
Sydney Parade Bus interchange
Blackrock Bus interchange
Salthill and Monkstown
Dún Laoghaire Mallin Bus interchange
Sandycove and Glasthule
Bray Daly Bus interchange

The Dublin Area Rapid Transit system (stylised as DART) is an electrified commuter rail railway network serving the coastline and city centre of Dublin. The service makes up the core of Dublin's suburban railway network, stretching from Greystones, County Wicklow, in the south to Howth and Malahide in north County Dublin. The DART serves 31 stations and consists of 53 route kilometres of electrified railway (46 km double track, 7 km single), and carries in the region of 20 million passengers per year.[1]

The DART system was established by Córas Iompair Éireann in 1984 to replace an ageing fleet of diesel-powered locomotives. Since 1987 the service is operated by Iarnród Éireann, Ireland's national rail operator. Contemporary rolling stock on the DART network is powered by 1500 V DC overhead lines and uses the Irish 1,600 mm gauge.

An extension and modernisation project branded as DART+,[2] which is proposed to triple the electrified network in size, began design work in 2019.


Initial development[edit]

The section of trackbed between Dún Laoghaire and Dublin City was originally laid out as part of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway, Ireland's first railway. This line was later connected with the Belfast mainline to the north and Wexford mainline to the south and joined the Harcourt Street line at Shanganagh Junction. The scenic views from the railway over Dublin Bay at this point have been favourably compared to those on the Gulf of Naples[3] and have resulted in trips to Killiney Hill and Greystones along the line becoming popular tourist attractions.

Prior to electrification in 1984, the line was operated using 1950s era CIÉ 2600 Class rail cars which had been converted in the early 1970s to push-pull operation. These diesel-powered trains were powered by a CIE 201 Class locomotive with a driving trailer carriage on the other. This service was notoriously uncomfortable, unreliable and overcrowded. By the late 1970s, the need for an urgent upgrade to the system had become apparent as the 2600 Class railcars were in poor condition. Replacement parts had become increasingly difficult to obtain due to the age of the rolling stock and its conversion to push-pull operation, which had been intended as a temporary measure until a more permanent solution could be established, had come to the end of its serviceable life.

In advance of electrification, three new stations at Sandymount, Booterstown and Salthill and Monkstown were added to the network in 1984. Sandymount and Booterstown were each built at the sites of a previous station while Salthill and Monkstown were built near the site of the original Kingstown railway terminus, between Seapoint and Dún Laoghaire. As electrification work was undertaken from 1981–1982, a spur which had served the ferry port at Dún Laoghaire was disconnected from the mainline as the installation of overhead power lines to service the harbour would have necessitated the lowering of the track which travelled through a portal south of Dún Laoghaire station.

Early DART services ran from the north-eastern suburb of Howth, through Connolly, Tara Street, and Pearse stations in the city centre and on to Bray which lies on the border between Dublin and Wicklow. This route remained unchanged for almost sixteen years at which point the line between Bray and Greystones was electrified. Further electrification of the line took place between Howth Junction & Donaghmede and Malahide, the northernmost DART station, on the Belfast mainline.


The DART service is operated by a mixed fleet of electric multiple unit trains. As of 2019, the trains run every ten minutes on weekdays with a reduced service on weekends. Trains north of Howth Junction are split between Howth and Malahide while the Malahide service is supplemented by Northern Commuter trains.

Trains are typically run as four-car, six-car or eight-car sets during the 07.00–09.30 and 17.00–19.00 weekday peak periods. Capacity is reduced during off-peak periods and at weekends, with up to four eight-car sets running. Four-car sets typically consist of a single 8500 Class unit while six-car sets are made up of three 8100 Class units. Eight-car sets can be made up of either two 8500 Class or four 8100 Class units. Both classes had worked in tandem prior to the refurbishment of the ageing 8100 Class in 2007, after which both have been run separately.

Forty two-car 8100 Class units were purchased to run the initial network. Two of these were damaged beyond repair in a depot fire in 2001. Expanding passenger numbers and the need to refurbish the ageing 8100 Class units saw the purchase of four 8500 Class train sets in 2000. These were complemented with three 8510 Class sets in 2001 and ten 8520 Class sets in 2003 and 2004. The now-withdrawn 8200 Class sets which were first run in 2000 operated until 2008 at which point they were retired from revenue service and decommissioned due to longstanding technical issues. A redevelopment of the network's stations was undertaken between 2003 and 2005 to lengthen platforms to accommodate eight-car sets, upgrade the power grid, and improve accessibility for disabled passengers.


All trains in the Dublin suburban area, including DART services, are monitored and regulated by a Central Traffic Control (CTC) facility located in Connolly Station, known as Suburban CTC. This facility has been extensively automated and requires a staff of five; two signallers, one with responsibility for level crossings, an electrical control officer, who supervises the electrical power supply equipment and an overall supervisor. The main CTC is staffed at all times however, there are also backup local control rooms which allow services to continue in the event of serious technical problems.

A single driver is responsible for the management of each train from the cab in the leading carriage. Automatic doors are controlled by the driver and are armed upon arrival at stations. Real-time passenger information displays on station platforms offer passengers updates on next train arrival times, service updates and outages. Automatic PA announcements are made in case of service disruptions and are tailored to each station.

The majority of stations on the network have been renovated to include automatic barriers which require passengers to submit their ticket for verification before they can set foot on the platform. A ticket is required in advance of boarding DART services and can be purchased at stations from manned kiosks and automated machines. Passengers can also avail of the option of using a Leap Card, Dublin's integrated ticketing scheme. Leap cards are offered as contactless cards onto which passengers can load set ticket options or a cash balance. Leap fares are typically cheaper than paying in cash for a journey. On the DART network, users tag on at their point of entry and tag off at their exit point. Irish Rail, along with Dublin's other public transport operators operated its own smart card system which was phased out to coincide with the Leap Card's introduction. Revenue protection officers check passengers tickets to ensure validity both onboard trains and on station platforms at random intervals.

DART stations[edit]

North of Howth Junction   Northeast of Howth Junction

South of Howth Junction

South of the River Liffey

South of Dún Laoghaire



In February 2018, the Irish government and National Transport Authority announced a 10-year plan to electrify the lines to Drogheda, Maynooth, Hazelhatch, M3 Parkway and Docklands.[4] Part of this plan also includes ordering 300 further EMU DART coaches and building new stations. Irish Rail is also planning on ordering 300 bi-mode units to allow longer-distance services to run electrified when under wires.

The initial phase of this is to provide 40 km (25 mi) of electrification to Maynooth, M3 Parkway and Docklands; with a new EMU maintenance depot at Maynooth and additional works in relation to signalling and level crossing closures. This has progressed to the design stage as of April 2019.[5]

This project, which had previously been referred to as "DART Expansion", was renamed "DART+" in 2020 when public consultation began on the design for the Maynooth upgrade.[6]

A tender for up to 600 hybrid battery/electric units was issued in May 2019, to replace the entire existing fleet and provide capacity for expansion.[7]

A tender for initial design work for electrification to Hazelhatch and of the Phoenix Park Tunnel as well as quad-tracking the remaining section of the line between Heuston and Cherry Orchard; and an additional station at the Kylemore Road was issued in June 2019.[8]

A new DART station, Woodbrook railway station, is proposed to be built between Shankill and Bray on the southern section of the dart line with an application to be submitted by the NTA in Q1 2020.[9]

Former/suspended proposals[edit]

Plans have been laid out to expand the DART network beyond the coastal mainline and provide service to the north and west of the city. These expansion plans include a purpose-built tunnel linking the Docklands Station at Spencer Dock in the city's quays and Heuston Station. This tunnel, the planned DART Underground, included plans for services from Celbridge/Hazelhatch to the Docklands via St. Stephen's Green. To accommodate this change, the plans called for the existing line to be realigned to run from Greystones in the south to Maynooth with the electrification of the Connolly to Maynooth line. An interchange at Pearse Street was to connect the proposed lines. The DART Underground project was put on hold in September 2015.[10] While the Greater Dublin Transport Strategy 2016-2035 (published in 2016) included the DART Underground as a proposed National Transport Authority project,[11] the tunnel was not included in the National Development Plan published in 2018 or DART+ expansion plans published in August 2020.[12]

DART Line 1[edit]

The southern portion of the existing DART line is to branch west after Connolly Station to run onto the Western Commuter line, which is to be electrified as far as Maynooth. The branch to Navan (currently constructed and operational to M3 Parkway with further extension also postponed) is also due to be electrified as far as Dunboyne, with the goal of increasing the frequency of services on these lines.[citation needed]

8329 at Howth in October 1985

DART Line 2[edit]

The Northern portion of the DART line (North of Connolly Station) was proposed to be linked using the DART Underground to the Kildare line via Docklands station at Spencer Dock and Heuston Station. This strategic tunnel would link the DART directly with existing Luas light rail lines, hundreds of bus routes, planned Metro lines and extend the high-frequency DART service to the Kildare commuter line. A DART service originating from the Northside (i.e. Howth) would divert to the Docklands and from there through a tunnel to Heuston station to continue service on the Kildare line. In April 2009, it was announced that an electrification project would extend the DART as far as Drogheda.[13]

Rolling stock[edit]

Current fleet[edit]

 Class  Image  Top speed   Number   Year Built   Notes 
 km/h   mph 
8100 Class Dart-8306-00.jpg 100 62 38 (formerly 40) 1983–1984 8110 and 8136 scrapped
8500 Class Howth Junction railway station in 2007.jpg 110 68 4 2000
8510 Class 8700 EMU - 8614.jpg 110 68 3 2001
8520 Class DART Connolly.jpg 110 68 10 2003–2004

Former fleet[edit]

 Class  Image  Top speed   Number   Year Built   In service   Notes 
 km/h   mph 
8200 Class DART Unit 8203.jpg 100 62 5 1999–2000 2000 – 2008 All stored at Inchicore Works

Proposed fleet changes[edit]

In October 2008, Iarnród Éireann announced plans for a significant expansion of the DART fleet, with a €900 million order for a total of 432 individual EMU cars for delivery between 2011–2012. Due to the economic downturn this delivery was put on hold.[14]

In May 2019, IÉ announced 'Invitations to Tender' for a new fleet of 300 bi-mode vehicles with the intention of extending DART services beyond the existing electrified network from 2023 onwards. A further 300 EMU vehicles are proposed to be procured to replace the 8100 Class units. The tender proposal included bi-mode trains capable of dual voltage operation, as future electrification on the Irish network is planned to be at 25 kV AC power, while the existing DART network will remain at 1.5 kV DC.[15]

DART's competitors[edit]

Irish Rail operates a rail monopoly. The only other company to operate on lines in the Republic of Ireland is Northern Ireland Railways, which jointly operates the cross-border Enterprise service between Dublin and Belfast.

A number of other public transport modes are available in Dublin. The CIÉ-owned Dublin Bus and the private Go-Ahead Ireland (owned by Go-Ahead Group) are virtually ubiquitous, running all over the city. As such, they have many routes that run parallel to DART for stretches. However, they do not have any scheduled routes that traverse the entire length of the DART line. As in the rest of Ireland, integration of bus and rail services is very limited though there are some "feeder bus" routes for which it is possible to buy a through ticket valid for both the rail and bus section of the journey. Travel passes and integrated ticketing (Leap Cards) for DART, Luas and Dublin Bus services were introduced in 2011.[16]

The Luas light rail system, 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.

It is also unlikely that the future MetroLink will be seen as a competitor to the DART.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "DART Expansion – National Development Plan (2018–2027)" (PDF). www.engineersireland.ie. Retrieved 10 October 2019.[dead link]
  2. ^ "DART+ Programme". Iarnród Éireann. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  3. ^ "Killiney Bay". wonderfulireland.ie. Archived from the original on 20 July 2015.
  4. ^ "DART Expansion". National Transport Authority.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Team Being Put in Place to Deliver DART to Maynooth". The Labour Party. 15 April 2019. Archived from the original on 13 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Radical new DART+ Plan for Dublin Launched". National Transport Authority. 26 August 2020.
  7. ^ "Tender process begins for largest and greenest fleet order in Irish public transport history". Iarnród Éireann. 27 May 2019. Archived from the original on 9 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Team Being Put in Place to Deliver DART to Celbridge". The Labour Party. 28 June 2019. Archived from the original on 13 February 2020.
  9. ^ Cormac Fitzgerald (29 March 2017). "New Dart station due for south Dublin". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  10. ^ Bardon, Sarah (8 September 2015). "Government abandons Dart Underground project". The Irish Times.
  11. ^ "Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035" (PDF). nationaltransport. 2016.
  12. ^ "Dart's €2.6bn extension plan beyond Dublin unveiled after 15 years". irishtimes.com. Irish Times. 26 August 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2021. The underground, while included in the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035, was not included in the 10-year National Development Plan published in 2018, and the tunnel is not included in the expansion plans published on Wednesday
  13. ^ Puck, Brendan (14 April 2009). "Dart line to connect Drogheda with Dublin under Transport 21". An Irish Town Planner's Blog. Notes that the source of the data is from Sunday Tribune.
  14. ^ "Iarnród Éireann to order 432 DART cars". Railway Gazette International. 30 October 2008.
  15. ^ Fender, Keith (January 2018). "Europe View: Ireland". Modern Railways. 75 (832): 96.
  16. ^ McCárthaigh, Seán (13 December 2011). "Leap card offers cheaper fares for public transport". Irish Examiner. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012.