Luas operator Transdev celebrated the 30millionth Luas passenger this morning, with the award of an annual pass to a 19-year-old Co Tipperary woman, at Heuston Station.
Rachel Williams had just arrived off a train from her home town of Roscrea when she purchased the ticket from a Luas vending machine and was immediately surrounded by Luas personnel and Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar and Minister for State Alan Kelly.
Coincidentally Mr Kelly is Ms Williams local TD, although both agreed they did not known one another. “I know her family”, added Mr Kelly.
The annual pass allows Ms Williams - who is a student nurse at NUI Galway – unlimited travel on the Luas Red and Green lines.
While the prize was somewhat outside Ms William’s daily commute she declared she was “delighted” with the travel pass, as she posed for a seemingly endless session of photographs with the ministers.
"I will get good use of the pass when I come to Dublin with my Nan. I come to Dublin a lot", she said.
About 11am when the presentation was all over Mr Varadkar and his entourage squeezed into a tram heading back to Dublin. “It is good to see it so full at this hour” he said.Mr Varadkar said he frequently takes public transport around the city and carries a Leap card.
“Luas has been a success story from the start” he said. His official statement also pointed out that the tram system does not receive an annual subsidy from the exchequer.
Asked why the trams are not affected by leaves on the rails in the way that Dart trains are, acting chief executive Rory O’Connor said certain types of trees were avoided in the Luas planting scheme. The system also has access to “sweeper” vehicles that can clear the track and the trams themselves can grit the rails as they move, so avoiding problems with ice and frost.
He attributed the success of the system in part to the operator’s customer service ethos such as kids go free weeks, and initiatives such as reduced price car parking.
Gerry Murphy, CEO of the National Transport Authority, said Luas was a key part of the city's integrated public transport network. With a focus on customer requirements, the authority has been rolling out a sustained programme of new initiatives, including the Leap Card, real time passenger information, journey planning apps and new bus fleets."
Luas passenger numbers have grown steadily from the arrival of the light-rail system in 2004. While passenger numbers dropped in 2008 and 2009 they have been growing since then, partly aided by the opening of three extensions in 2010 and 2011, to Cherrywood, the Point and Saggart. When the city centre link is opened in 2017, passenger journey numbers are expected to reach 40million per year.