A little-known tunnel running below Dublin’s Phoenix Park has been reopened to allow the Irish rail network to link its Ireland-wide services. The tunnel, which was completed in 1877, was only ever used intermittently to allow freight wagons to access the Dublin docklands, and also Croke Park during big GAA fixtures but regular passenger service is now being introduced and this could lead to non-stop railroad journeys between Derry and Cork. However, the Irish Echo understands there was significant internal opposition to the project within the Irish rail operator, Iarnród Éireann.

The Phoenix Park is one of Dublin’s landmark locations with the President of Ireland and the U.S. Ambassador both having their official residences within its boundaries. Opened in 1662, it is one of the largest walled parks in Europe.

Iarnród Éireann spent almost €14 million upgrading the tunnel to allow the new passenger services to begin. Only a small number of trains will use the tunnel, to begin with, linking County Kildare stations to Grand Canal Dock, where a large number of tech firms are based.

The opening of the tunnel has received widespread praise, along with hopes that an all-Ireland rail service will soon be on offer. However, the Echo has been told that within Iarnród Éireann there was a reluctance to develop the tunnel.

A source said that the railway service sees the planned Dublin underground service, DART Underground - which will link the city’s south side to its north side - as a better long-term solution to the capital’s public transport problems. However, a lack of cash means DART Underground will not be started until 2021 at the earliest.

As well as investing the cash on upgrading the tunnel, pressure will now be on Iarnród Éireann to invest in more rolling stock to make the Phoenix Park tunnel more viable. That will put pressure on its current budget.

Despite the internal wrangling, the government wanted the tunnel opened and transport minister Shane Ross said it was a big step forward for transport on the island.

“I’m delighted to announce the opening of this key piece of our public transport service,” Ross said.

“The Phoenix Park tunnel line is a vital part of our rail infrastructure and I know that it will prove to be of immense benefit to the traveling public, as will other transport projects such as the Luas Cross City line, which will open in 2017.

“As minister for transport, I am very proud to be one of the first commuters to travel this line and I heartily encourage others to do so.”

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This article first appeared in the Irish Echo. For more stories, visit their website here.

The entrance to one side of the reopened Phoenix Park tunnel. WikiCommons