DART users are facing serious disruptions to weekend services over the next 18 months as Iarnrod Eireann embarks on a ?170m upgrading project that will increase the carrying capacity of the rail service by over 30%.

From next month, different sections of the Dart line will be closed every weekend of the 18month period, which will have a considerable knock-on impact on services. For example, upgrading of a section covering the Lansdowne Road track will effectively close off all services south of that point for the duration of the works in that area.

The work will also impact on some intercity services that use the Dart line - for example, the Dublin-Rosslare train. However, bus transfers will be arranged for mainline rail users.

A spokesman for Iarnrod Eireann acknowledged that there would be some inconvenience for passengers during the 18month period, but stressed that the work was being restricted to weekends to avoid disrupting essential commuter trafc. He also emphasised the benet to passengers of the upgrading.

"The purpose of this is to increase the overall capacity of the Dart, which will allow more people to switch from the roads to public transport, " the spokesman said, adding that - unlike other infrastructure projects - all of the major rail upgrading projects carried out by the company in recent years had been delivered "on time and on budget".