City traders to increase damages claim over Luas


Traders in Dublin's Harcourt Street have said they will increase the amount of damages they are seeking from the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) as a result of the Luas construction.

The traders, who are in discussions with separate trader groups in Middle Abbey Street and the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC) over compensation claims, say their concerns about dirt and dust were dismissed by the RPA.

The RPA denied the allegation and said everything reasonable was being done to facilitate the traders, including external cleaning.

Speaking for the Harcourt Street traders, Ms Noelle Campbell Sharpe said the bill for cleaning the windows and carpets in her Origin Gallery had come to a "very reasonable" €5,000.

This figure, she said, included repairing paintwork and using specialist cherry-picker machines.

Ms Campbell Sharpe said she had asked the RPA to take care of the bill "because it was dreadful for the nearly two years it was a building site. We faced mountains of earth."

The disruption endured while the line was being built had impacted very badly on business in the street, she said. However, Ms Campbell Sharpe said that, the High Court challenge for compensation not withstanding, she felt the RPA should have picked up the cleaning bill. Her application had been "dismissed out of hand", and the traders were told they should appreciate the increase in property values due to Luas.

But Ms Campbell Sharpe said most of the traders were leaseholders and would face increased rents as a result of an increase in property values.

Mr Tom Manning of the RPA said: "We are making good anything broken and are doing some things. Cleaning up was part of it." However, he added that he felt a bill of €5,000 for window-cleaning on one building was a lot.

Meanwhile, Dublin Bus is in discussions with Dublin City Council on the introduction of a bus priority signalling system similar to that in use on Luas trams.

Plans to install the priority system on the city's buses have been discussed for some time according to the council, but it was felt the cost per bus was prohibitive, a spokesman for the council told The Irish Times.

Dublin Bus complained formally to the RPA last Tuesday that buses were running half an hour late after a series of Luas trams were given priority over all other traffic including public transport at the St Stephen's Green junction in the city centre.

The resultant queues stretched back as far as Cork Street in Dublin's Liberties with buses running up to 30 minutes late.

The bus company later said it simply wanted to ensure the traffic flowed well for all providers of public transport.

Dublin City Council traffic controllers, Luas staff and Dublin Bus have been in discussions for much of this week in an attempt to sort the problem out.

Speaking after one such meeting the senior controller Mr Brendan O'Connor told The Irish Times that discussions were also under way with Dublin Bus about introducing a similar system in cabs.

The system works by alerting the traffic control when a vehicle is approaching a traffic light. A vehicle can be designated low, medium or high priority depending on the time of day and its pre-agreed status in traffic hierarchy.

However, if the vehicle finds its priority setting is causing it to run late it can request a higher priority which results in less waiting time at lights. The first identification of a tram approaching a traffic light is automatic and triggered by the tram passing a certain point.

The second signal is sent as a request from the driver, who hits a button on his console.

It is understood that what happened on Tuesday was that Luas drivers hit their buttons too frequently and a "glitch" stopped controllers downgrading their requests.