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Monday 22 September 2014

Symbol of Dublin proving its critics wrong 25 years on

Published 24/07/2009 | 00:00

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Singer Jerry Fish performing last nigtht on board the special DART service with live bands and party fun to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the DART

SUCH was the excitement when the first DART went into service 25 years ago that, six stops into the journey, the train was full.

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By the time the 8am service from Bray to the city centre reached Dun Laoghaire, it was so full that new passengers couldn't get on.

Some 35,000 people used the Dublin Area Rapid Transit system on the opening day of July 23, 1984 -- far more than the 20,000 expected. Since then, the numbers using the capital's coastal public transport system every day stands at 90,000.

Yesterday the DART celebrated 25 years in service, with all but four of the 80 carriages delivered in late 1983 still in operation.

Built at a cost of IR£77m (€98m) -- €202m in today's money -- critics at the time said that the Government should never have invested so much into a system that would never be self-financing.

They were wrong. DART currently breaks even. An iconic symbol of Dublin, the green carriages have inspired their own accent -- the infamous DORT twang -- and have featured in the work of author Roddy Doyle and poet Seamus Heaney.

Its busiest day was July 4, 1996, when 250,000 people went to Dun Laoghaire to visit the US naval carrier, the USS John F Kennedy.

Bernard Byrne, who was among the first drivers, said the DART revolutionised public transport in Ireland. "It changed the whole concept of public transport. Within one year of DART opening, property values had increased by 10pc to 14pc, in spite of the fact that things weren't the best as far as the economy was concerned."

Now Iarnrod Eireann wants to massively expand the service, including extending the DART to Hazelhatch and Maynooth by 2015.

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