Connolly Station, also known as Dublin Connolly, is the busiest railway station in Ireland, serving as a vital hub for both domestic and international travel [is a train every two hours to Belfast international travel?]. Situated in the heart of Dublin city centre, the station is a bustling gateway to Ireland’s rich history, culture, and natural beauty.
The station was unusually busy for a Saturday as there was a Rugby Match at Lansdowne. As soon as I arrived there was a special train and that reduced the pressure on the southbound service however because of the crowding I abandoned my plan to visit Greystones and travelled North to Howth instead.
The Dublin Area Rapid Transit system (stylised as DART) is an electrified commuter rail railway network serving the coastline and city of Dublin, Ireland.
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 (29 mi) double track, 7 km (4.3 mi) single), and carries in the region of 20 million passengers per year. In a similar manner to the Berlin S-Bahn, the DART blends elements of a commuter rail service and a rapid transit system.
The DART system was established by Córas Iompair Éireann in 1984 to replace an ageing fleet of diesel-powered locomotives. It was, and still is, the only electric mainline railway in Ireland, and one of two currently operating electric railways, the other being the Luas tram which opened in 2004.
Since 1987, the service is operated by Iarnród Éireann, Ireland’s national rail operator. Contemporary rolling stock on the DART network is powered by 1,500 V DC overhead lines and uses the 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) Irish gauge. 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 the 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 tickets 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 staffed 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.
Several proposals have been made to expand the DART network beyond the coastal mainline and provide service to the north and west of the city. These expansion plans included a proposed tunnel linking the Docklands Station at Spencer Dock in the city’s quays and Heuston Station. This proposed DART Underground project, first posited in 1972, included plans for services from Celbridge/Hazelhatch to the Docklands via St. Stephen’s Green.
The DART Underground project was put on hold in September 2015. While included in the Greater Dublin Transport Strategy 2016-2035 (published in 2016), the DART Underground proposal was not included in the Greater Dublin Area Strategy 2022-2042 (published in 2021). In 2017, IÉ announced plans to procure a new fleet of trains with the intention of extending DART services from 2023 onwards.
An initial purchase of 100 vehicles was proposed to allow replacement of the existing fleet; this proposed purchase would include bi-mode units to allow services to run beyond the existing electrified network. In December 2021, IÉ announced that Alstom had been selected as the provider of up to 750 new vehicles, with 325 planned as part of the DART+ plan. Part of Alstom’s X’Trapolis family, an initial purchase of 95 vehicles is to be undertaken, formed into 19 5-car units. A total of 13 of these are due to be fitted both with pantographs to operate using the 1,500 V DC OHLE on the main DART network, and batteries to allow operation on non-electrified routes.
The battery operation is planned to allow the extension of DART services as far as Drogheda. The remaining units in the initial batch are expected to also be 5-car, fitted with pantograph only. In 2023, Alstom revealed prototypes of the new DART trains. The prototype plans include 4 bike spaces per car, space to charge e-bikes and scooters, dedicated wheelchair areas, and automatic ramps for passenger accessibility.
In April 2023, TD Fergus O’Dowd suggested that the first set of trains were due to be delivered by 2025, enabling expansion of DART services to Drogheda along the DART+ Coastal North route.
I only visited this station once and that was in 2016 and it was not a pleasant experience because of the lack of space. According to some that I spoke with it cannot cope with demand during morning or evening rush-hour.
Great Victoria Street is a railway station serving the city centre of Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is one of two major stations in the city, along with Lanyon Place, and is one of the four stations located in the city centre, the others being Lanyon Place, Botanic and City Hospital. It is situated near Great Victoria Street, one of Belfast’s premier commercial zones, and Sandy Row. It is also in a more central position than Lanyon Place (ironically named Belfast Central until September 2018), with the Europa Hotel, Grand Opera House and The Crown Liquor Saloon all nearby.
Great Victoria Street station shares a site with Europa Buscentre, the primary bus station serving Belfast City Centre. It will be replaced by Belfast Grand Central station, a combined bus and railway station, by 2025.
The station is on the site of a former linen mill, beside where Durham Street crossed the Blackstaff River at the Saltwater (now Boyne) Bridge.
The Ulster Railway opened the first station on 12 August 1839. A new terminal building, probably designed by Ulster Railway engineer John Godwin, was completed in 1848. Godwin later founded the School of Civil Engineering at Queen’s College.
The station, built directly on Victoria Street, was Belfast’s first railway terminus, and as such was called just “Belfast” until 1852. By this time, two other railway companies had opened termini in Belfast, so the Ulster Railway renamed its terminus “Belfast Victoria Street” for clarity. In 1855 the Dublin and Belfast Junction Railway was completed, making Victoria Street the terminus for one of the most important main lines in Ireland. The Ulster Railway changed the station name again to “Great Victoria Street” in 1856, in line with a change of the street name.
In 1876 the Ulster Railway became part of the Great Northern Railway (GNR), making Great Victoria Street the terminus for a network that extended south to Dublin and west to Derry and Bundoran.
Express passenger traffic to and from Dublin Connolly station was always Great Victoria Street’s most prestigious traffic. The GNR upgraded its expresses over the decades and in 1947 introduced the Enterprise non-stop service between the two capitals. As Belfast suburbs grew, commuter traffic also grew in volume.
In 1958, the Ulster Transport Authority took over Northern Ireland’s bus and rail services. Three years later Great Victoria Street station was modernised, and a bus centre incorporated into the facility. Then in 1968, a large section of the 1848 terminal building was demolished to make way for the development of the Europa Hotel, which opened in 1971. In April 1976 Northern Ireland Railways closed both Great Victoria Street and the Belfast Queen’s Quay terminus of the Bangor line and replaced them both with a new Belfast Central Station, now renamed Lanyon Place. The remainder of Great Victoria Street station was demolished.
After a feasibility study was commissioned in 1986 it was agreed that a new development on the site, incorporating the reintroduction of the Great Northern Railway, was viable. The Great Northern Tower had already been built on the site of the old station terminus in 1992, and so the second Great Victoria Street Station was built behind the tower block, yards from the site of its predecessor. The new station was opened on 30 September 1995.
The current station has two island platforms providing a total of four platform faces. Platforms 2 and 3 run the full length of the site and open onto the station’s main concourse. Platforms 1 and 4 are half the length and are accessible by walking down the other platforms.