In 1998 the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats government gave the green light to the over ground Luas light rail system under the stewardship of Public Enterprise Minister Mary O’Rourke. The government in danger of missing out on £IR114m (€145m) of EU funding for the Luas project due to cabinets inability to reach agreement on plans for over ground or underground route through the city centre, finally approved plans for 2 separate lines that could be connected sometime in the future. The original budget for building the 2 lines was £250 million punts, construction got underway in 2000 and the final cost came in at €728 million euros when completed in 2004.
The project was dogged by many planning issues, lack of coordination in moving of services beneath the tracks, seriously delays particularly in the Harcourt street area, leading to outrage from local businesses. The green line was opened in June 2004 with the red line following in September. Since then there have being further extensions to both the red and green lines. With the Red Line now 20kms in length and has 32 Stops operating between The Point and Saggart. The Green Line is 16.5km in length and has 22 Stops. The Green Line runs from Brides Glen to St. Stephen’s Green through Sandyford.
It is fair to say that Luas has been the most successful public transport incentive undertaken in the country. In its first full year of operation, 2005 it carried 22 million passengers since then that has risen to 29.06 million passengers in 2011. With the introduction of leap card last year it has enabled commuters to transfer between various modes of public transport with ease. One of the downsides of the Luas has been the rise of anti-social behaviour on late night trams which has now been addressed by introducing security guards on most trams.
Yesterday Cabinet today approved an updated business plan for the €370 million line, currently known as Luas line BXD which will extend the Luas Green Line from St Stephen’s Green to O’Connell Street and provide an interchange opportunity with the Luas Red Line at Abbey Street, thereby providing an essential missing link, by joining up both existing lines. The new service will travel through the new DIT campus at Grangegorman, Phibsboro and terminate at the Irish Rail station at Broombridge in Cabra. This will provide commuters with more transport options not only on Luas but to make more connections with other modes of public transport.
Pre-construction works are due to begin in May 2013 with the main construction beginning in 2015 and a scheduled completion date of 2017. The construction phase could generate 800 temporary jobs with some 60 permanent jobs as a result of the project. It is envisaged there will be major traffic disruption around St Stephen’s Green and surrounding streets when the work gets under way. One would hope the Rail procurement Agency (RPA) will have gained knowledge from previous works, and deliver a more trouble-free construction phase, and come in on time and budget.
This is another step in providing Dublin with a more integrated public transport network, but with the population of the greater Dublin area expected to grow to 2 million by 2050, we need to continue to invest in additional Luas lines and Dart Underground which would connect all major intercity rail corridors and further connections with Dart and Luas.
Fair increases and inefficiencies:
Meanwhile a further deterrent to people is switching to public transport has been the announcement of more bus and train fares increases. This has happened every year since the recession began when incomes have been reduced over that time. Reducing waste should be a priority for operators and planners with more efficiency routes and service that meet commuter’s needs. Why are Dublin Bus sending so many buses up to Stephens Green area? They are underused, duplication of routes, adding to the maintenance, fuel cost, time and drivers wages for those extra miles. We still see so many buses traveling through the city with an out of service sign up, except they have now added the word Sorry. Clumsy changing of bus drivers at various city location leave commuter’s sitting on buses not knowing how long before they will get to their destination. So many mothers with buggies are left standing at bus stops because buses can only admit one buggy with a child sitting in.
Why despite the introduction of the successful leap card last year have Dublin bus still 3 card readers on board (2 for leap card) and one for other card users? If you are not travelling the full journey on the bus you still have to present your leap card to the driver to deduct the correct amount, this is not efficient use of technology in today’s world and adds to the pickup time at each stop and overall journey time with the driver spending unnecessary time imputing the information manually. All of this should be possible with a single card reader.
© Tom Dowling 2012 photo from the Irish Times website