Bus concerns on the new Luas cross-city line

Potential conflict with trams could see buses in Dublin city running out of road

Images issued by Dublin City Council showing illustrations of proposed changes to College Green in Dublin. Photograph:  Dublin City Council/PA Wire

Images issued by Dublin City Council showing illustrations of proposed changes to College Green in Dublin. Photograph: Dublin City Council/PA Wire

 

More than three years since the Luas cross-city line was granted permission by An Bord Pleanála and more than a decade since this “missing link” between the existing Red and Green lines was proposed, it has emerged that there may be a problem with the planned operation of the line.

The problem is not with the Luas trams or tracks, but how the new piece of public transport infrastructure will interact with existing traffic, specifically with buses.

It seems astonishing, after all those years of planning and design, that this problem would only now emerge, when the ground work to support the tracks have been completed in the city centre and the track is being laid in the street. But perhaps this potential conflict has been known for a considerable length of time and the reason it is only now coming to light, and why it is still being framed as a “possible” problem, is that no one quite knows how to break it to the travelling public, particularly those commuters who use buses.

Traffic restrictions

There has been a six-year softening-up campaign in relation to traffic restrictions in College Green.

In early 2009 then minister for transport Noel Dempsey said College Green needed to be a car-free zone to facilitate the new Luas line. But when the “bus gate” was introduced later that year, it only applied from 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm on week days and talk of a full-time ban was brushed aside.

Several proposals and strategies aimed at increasing pedestrianisation of the city centre were mooted since, but no concrete plans emerged.

Only last summer when the heavy duty phase of the Luas work began, was the private car ban extended to 7am-7pm on week days.

That the day of the car is numbered in College Green was further stressed when the Dublin City Centre Transport Study recommending making the ban permanent and extending it to taxis.

However, there remained no hint that there might be a problem with the buses.

Until that is the engineer’s drawings for the structural changes, which have to be made to the road before Luas Cross City starts running in 2017, were presented last month to the city council’s transport committee.

Road space

Concerns were raised by a number of committee members, notably the Green Party’s Ciarán Cuffe, about the designs and the amount of road space left to accommodate buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

Council chief executive Owen Keegan, who was director of traffic for the city when the existing Luas lines were being planned, stresses no decision has been made yet on the buses.

However, he says there is a problem, both in terms of the impact the heavy bus traffic will have on the operation of the trams, and the ability of buses to negotiate the reconfigured road space.

Councillors must approve the structural changes needed to the road, and they must do it soon, which means the double-decker elephant can’t be ignored for much longer.

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