Dublin council chief hits out at opposition to College Green plaza

Owen Keegan ‘disappointed’ at attitude of Dublin Bus and Chamber of Commerce

 

Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan has hit out at Dublin Bus and city business organisations for their failure to support plans for a pedestrian and cycle plaza at College Green, ahead of a Bord Pleanála hearing on the proposal.

The council last May sought permission from An Bord Pleanála to build the €10 million civic plaza and ban access to and from Dame Street through College Green for all traffic including buses.

Dublin Bus and Dublin Chamber of Commerce, had previously supported the council’s plans but recently appealed to the board to allow buses to keep using the area. The bus company branded the council’s plans as “socially regressive”.

Mr Keegan told The Irish Times he was “personally” disappointed that Dublin Bus and Dublin Chamber of Commerce had rowed back on their support for the new plaza.

Speaking ahead of the public hearing on January 9th, Mr Keegan said the delays experienced in the operation of the new Luas Cross City through College Green demonstrated the need to put the plaza in place.

“Continuing to facilitate east-west traffic on College Green is inconsistent with the satisfactory operation of Luas, and while we’ve managed so far it’s not ideal. There is no spare capacity in the road network and any small issue has a very detrimental effect.”

New longer trams will start running on the line by March of next year, which will add to the complexity of managing the city’s traffic. “When Luas is running at full frequency, with the full length of tram, it will be very challenging,” he said.

“What the Luas has shown to me is the urgent need to remove east-west traffic on College Green to ensure, not just Luas, but bus services in the city run efficiently, because if anything blocks up then everyone is affected.”

Mr Keegan said he was taken by surprise that both the bus company and the business organisation had failed to recognise this. “I am quite disappointed that while there was an initial very positive reaction to the proposal for a plaza at College Green, a significant number of submissions from people who were initially in favour are now against it. Some of them, I mean Dublin Bus, the chamber of commerce, [are] very, very surprising. It is very, very disappointing,” he said.

“The suggestion that we can run buses east and west and sustain a reliable high quality Luas cross city and a high level of pedestrian priority at city centre signals? It just can’t be done and I think the evidence of the first week of the Luas supports that.”

Dublin Bus head of operations Donal Keating has said he doesn’t “entirely agree that we changed our tune” on the plaza. “We looked at all of the issues and we put forward some suggestions as to what we think might be a better way of operating,” he said. The company has suggested it keep buses running from Dame Street through College Green northbound, and use Parliament Street for southbound buses.