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Dublin City Centre Transport Plan: Council urged to reverse ‘last minute changes’ to proposal

Civil society groups seek meeting with Dublin City Council chief executive Richard Shakespeare

The Dublin City Centre Transport Plan, when it was published last year, included 24-hour 'bus gates' on Bachelors Walk and Aston Quay restricting passage to public transport only. File photograph: Getty Images

A group of environmental, commuter and health organisations have urged Dublin City Council to reverse “last minute changes” which water down the new Dublin City Centre Transport Plan.

The group, which includes the Irish Heart Foundation, the Dublin Commuter Coalition, An Taisce, Irish Doctors for the Environment, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice and a number of cycling campaign bodies, is seeking an emergency meeting with council chief executive Richard Shakespeare ahead of the planned introduction of traffic changes next month. It is urging Mr Shakespeare to “implement the agreed project in full and on time”.

The plan, when it was published last year, included 24-hour “bus gates” on Bachelors Walk and Aston Quay restricting passage to public transport only.

Dublin City councillors were told earlier this week that the restrictions would now only apply from 7am to 7pm daily. While private motorists would not be permitted to drive directly east and west along the Liffey quays at O’Connell Bridge, only a 50m section of Aston Quay would be inaccessible to cars.

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Following the intervention in recent weeks by Fine Gael Minister of State for Enterprise Emer Higgins, senior council officials and the National Transport Authority met a number of city business groups, including car park owners. Mr Shakespeare said he had been asked at the meeting to delay the implementation of the plan from August to “March or April 2025″, and to consider an economic impact study commissioned by the City Centre Traders Alliance.

The civil society organisations said they also wanted to meet Mr Shakespeare to discuss the changes to the plan, which they pointed out had received 80 per cent support when it was released for public consultation last year.

In a letter to Mr Shakespeare the group noted a delay to March 2025 would have “serious consequences for the delivery of BusConnects as core bus routes with higher frequencies were supposed to leverage these bus gates”.

Curtailing the restrictions to 7am-7pm only would not allow road space to be reallocated to walking and cycling “thus failing in the goal of promoting active travel” and the development of a segregated Liffey cycle route, the group said.

In addition, it said “time-bound bus gates, like those previously seen at College Green, lead to poor adherence and ineffectiveness, often requiring constant enforcement”.

While responsibility for implementing traffic changes rests with council officials rather than councillors, the group noted there had been “recent unacceptable interference from political representatives outside of those directly elected to Dublin City Council”.

It questioned the “inclusion of an economic analysis after the consultation phase has ended, nor do we agree with a lobby group commissioning its own report, whose conclusions cannot be considered independent or impartial”, a reference to the traders’ alliance report.

“It is concerning that the democratic process which involves input from all quarters of society, over an open and public consultation period is now potentially being disregarded, in the eleventh hour, for the benefit of a powerful lobby group representing the interests of a small number of city centre car parks, whose business model will always be opposed to any efforts to reduce car traffic in the city centre.”

The weight given to the concerns of this traders’ group was “disproportionate to the weight given to the public’s opinion” and “undermines the democratic process of local government and public consultations”, the letter said.

“We cannot stand by and risk more serious injury and death on the roads in central Dublin, or allow the continued car-reliant mindset to be propagated by a small handful of lobbyists with vested interests in perpetuating the status quo.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times