Luas Cross City: back to the future

Historic milestone has taken a long time to reach and could have been so much better

Nearly seven decades since Dublin's original and very extensive tram network was junked in favour of buses and 25 years since the idea of building a modern tramway was first mooted by the Government-sponsored Dublin Transporation Initiative, trams are once again running on O'Connell Street as Luas Cross City makes its way from St Stephen's Green to Broombridge in Cabra. This marks a historic milestone, although it has taken an awful long time to reach.

The missing link between the Green and Red lines has finally been filled in, although passengers seeking to change from one to the other must walk a few hundred metres between stops in and around O’Connell Street. Daily disruption of traffic and business life during the four-year construction period may now be forgotten as the new line comes into operation, having been delivered on time and within budget; at €368 million, this 6km extension to the Green Line works out at slightly more than €61 million per kilometre, which may be judged good value for money, especially given the complexity of the project. It also has a network element, as public transport users will be able to change at Broombridge between the Luas and trains on the Maynooth/Sligo railway line.

Some of the grandest streets in Dublin are marred by thick steel poles as well as miscellaneous utility boxes on footpaths

Yet Luas Cross City could have been so much better, had the Railway Procurement Agency (since merged with the National Roads Authority in Transport Infrastructure Ireland), adopted an alternative power system for trams running on Dublin's principal streets. Instead some of the grandest streets in Dublin are marred by thick steel poles as well as miscellaneous utility boxes on footpaths, with the grouping in College Green dubbed "Luashenge".

There has also been an unseemly dispute between the National Transport Authority and Dublin City Council over whether cyclists should be permitted to use streets along the new tram route, with the NTA taking the view that they risk being toppled if their wheels get stuck in the tracks while the council insists that cyclists should still be accommodated. It would appear that their needs were forgotten during the planning process.