A guest post by Donal Ó Brolcáin
The property-induced economic crisis has given us an opportunity to scrap Metro North and the proposed Dart Interconnector, and instead expand the Luas system in Dublin. Within the next few weeks, the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) will open the Luas Green line extension to Cherrywood. This includes two fully equipped stations that will not be used. Recently, Iarnrod Eireann said it will not open a newly built station on the Kildare line. In both cases, the reason is that expected property development did not take place.
Metro North and the Interconnector are also predicated on development assumptions that no longer hold. Meanwhile, the government has dropped plans to link the two existing Luas lines for passenger services. This perpetuates the folly of the decision made in 1998 to build two separate Luas lines.
To meet the aims of government transport policy – to ensure the provision of a well-functioning, integrated public transport system that enhances competitiveness and contributes to social cohesion – I propose an integrated Luas, which would create an on-street loop around the central business district; access Dublin airport from all parts of the network, including a link to Dart; and fill the transport void in north Dublin with three Luas lines, all on the surface and cheaper per kilometre than Metro North.
Luas cannot be a network without integrating the Green and Red lines. This means a full interchange at the O’Connell Street-Abbey Street junction. This is no more radical a suggestion than the RPA-Iarnrod Eireann proposal to uproot St Stephen’s Green as part of their plans for two lines (Metro North, Dart Interconnector) underneath that part of Dublin.
Integrating the Green and Red lines needs two tracks on-street from Stephen’s Green to Broadstone, as RPA proposes. It would transfer to the unused line that joins the Western line (Maynooth, with the new Dunboyne line) at Broombridge.
Last Friday, An Bord Pleanála was due to hold a preliminary hearing on RPA’s application to build another Luas line, one that will not connect the existing lines for passenger services. The plan includes a bridge across the Liffey, joining Marlborough Street and Hawkins Street. This is silly, as it ignores the Samuel Beckett bridge, designed to take Luas vehicles. Why build yet another bridge that does not extend the Luas catchment area? Such a proposal goes against the notion of cost-effective improvement of public transport in the built-up parts of the capital.
The Docklands loop that I am proposing would use the Samuel Beckett bridge to integrate this new city quarter. Running on-street, it would connect the catchment areas of the Green line (Sandyford- Cherrywood) to the docklands, linking up the newly opened National Conference Centre, O2, Busaras, Connolly station and the Abbey theatre. It would connect the Red line (Tallaght-O2) to the south docklands, allowing easier access to the Grand Canal theatre, Shelbourne Park, the Aviva stadium, the Eye and Ear Hospital and National Concert Hall. It would require a new Dart interchange at Barrow Street on the southside, complementing Connolly Station on the northside.
The North Dublin loop would start from the joined-up Luas lines in O’Connell Street, run up Dorset Street, Drumcondra, Whitehall, Collins Avenue/DCU to Ballymun, onto the airport and back through Finglas to join the extended Green line at Broombridge. The airport can be linked to the Dart at Clongriffin, with a Luas line taking in Coolock, Beaumont Hospital and the North Fringe. That would put Dublin airport on a loop connecting it to the central business district from two directions. The airport can be also linked to the Dart at Clongriffin, with a Luas line taking in Coolock, Beaumont Hospital and the North Fringe.
Our governing classes love grand gestures, usually involving the feuding public-sector baronies of CIE companies, the RPA, National Roads Authority, local authorities, government departments and the newly created National Transport Authority. They refuse to learn from the mistakes made when railways were first built in Ireland.
Spin, hype and bluster cannot disguise the fact that quiet competence is missing. Dublin needs an integrated Luas network to show the “joined-up thinking” of which we have heard so much, and to get us out of the crisis caused by reliance on property development.
This article appeared in the Sunday Times of September 26.