I am delighted to be here today to mark the commencement of construction of the new Docklands Station. Another cornerstone in Transport 21 is being put in place here today. The Docklands Station will play a critical role in bringing our vision for integrated transport to reality.
This is a very important project for a number of reasons, not least because it makes such a major contribution towards the sustainable development of the Docklands area. The new station will enhance opportunities for access into this dynamic new quarter of our capital city, which is also a rapidly growing destination point for commuters and for visitors to the city.
In purely transport terms, however, this project translates in the short-term into a practical, value-for-money measure by providing more rail services along the Western line as far as Maynooth. The growth in demand for services along this line has been unprecedented. Since the year 2000, passenger numbers have risen from 3,400 to almost 10,000 per day.
Only last December I announced that we were providing three additional peak services to Maynooth to help cater for this demand. However, further capacity and service-level improvements are necessary to cater for the projected population growth and demand growth even in the short to medium term.
Unfortunately, Connolly Station cannot cater for any additional peak-time traffic. While the DART resignalling project, when completed, will allow for some additional services, we need a quicker solution. Docklands Station is that solution. With Docklands in place, we have a new Station alongside Connolly and thereby get more people on more trains into the heart of the City.
And crucially, Docklands will integrate with other transport modes. The extension of the Luas red line from Connolly Station to the Point Depot - the Public Inquiry for which is currently underway - will conveniently integrate from the new station.
This means that we can connect commuters to the heart of the city centre, Connolly Station, Heuston Station and onwards to all stops to Tallaght and ultimately to Citywest.
Dublin Bus plans to extend its services to the Docklands and the Financial Services centre area. The new road bridge planned at Mayor Street will also facilitate easy access to the South city area.
This is what we are working to achieve in Government - real integration, offering people convenience and choice.
The benefits of a Docklands Station are not just to be felt in the City. I have already mentioned what it means for the people of Maynooth and passengers on the Western line. Add to this benefits for Dunboyne and ultimately Navan.
The Docklands station essentially marks the commencement of the first phase of the Navan Rail line development, a key component of Transport 21. When the work to reopen the old railway line between Clonsilla and Dunboyne is completed in 2009, all the services on that line will operate into this new city-centre station. This will offer commuters a real alternative to the car. And by extending this service to Navan, it means the benefits will be further again.
In the longer term, the Dunboyne line will form part of an extended, 2-line DART network and will operate into the Interconnector tunnel.
Iarnród Éireann is to be congratulated today on how quickly it has taken up its mandate since the announcement of Transport 21. The Docklands station is only one of four major Transport 21 projects on which construction will start in 2006 - also to commence this year are the Cork Commuter Rail project, the Kildare Line project and the new train depot in Portlaoise.
It is now abundantly clear to all who want to see that Transport 21 has real traction, is being implemented and will be delivered.
Docklands Stations will be a major, new integrated hub in the world-class transport network which Transport 21 will produce.
More immediately, it will have a very positive impact on the passenger experience and the quality and range of commuter services which the train offers.
This progress bodes very well for the implementation of Transport 21. It is also critical for the role that the railway is to play in achieving modal shift from cars and more sustainable commuting behaviour generally.
I wish Iarnród Éireann every success in constructing and operating this new station and I look forward to the improvements it will deliver to commuters.