Luas: twists and U-turns

Dublin city councillors are ducking and diving to avoid making decisions

Not since commercial pressure forced the abandonment of plans to build a unified, cross-city Luas service has public transport policy in Dublin been in such a mess. It has taken two decades to correct that particular mistake and a cross-city light rail service with connections to the Red and Green Luas lines is scheduled to open later this year. The new service will accommodate an additional 10 million passengers but long lost benefits, in terms of commuter comfort and modern infrastructure, have been significant.

It is not over yet. City councillors are now ducking and diving as they – and the roads and traffic department – find reasons to avoid decisions that would antagonise private motorists and various commercial interests. A plan to ban private cars from Eden Quay in order to facilitate the new Luas service has been shelved. This, in spite of warnings that road traffic congestion would slow the new €368m Luas service and make it unreliable.

An unwillingness by councillors and traffic planners to offend motorists, commercial interests or local residents also generated a five-year planning shambles over a council commitment to provide a segregated cycle path along the Liffey from Heuston Station to the Point Depot (now 3Arena). Two years ago, 13 different route options had been narrowed down to four. Then, a partially-built apartment block that council officials had not noticed got in the way. When cyclists objected to being diverted away from the river, motorists became the fall guys. Further outcry brought an offer to facilitate cyclists, motorists and buses. Road space was found for cars and buses while a suspended boardwalk above the Liffey, costing €3million, was proposed for cyclists. This exotic compromise has been sent back for further assessment. You couldn’t make it up.

Councillors and city officials should recognise that private cars, many with single occupants, have become an anachronism on inner city streets. Priority access must be provided for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.