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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 17 November, 2018
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Eamon Ryan: Open letter to Shane Ross on the need for a review of the Metrolink design

“Closing all the roads and pedestrian crossings along the Luas line, will divide every local community between Beechwood and Sandyford.”

Eamon Ryan TD and leader of the Green Party

DEAR MINISTER ROSS,

There was real division at a recent meeting of elected representatives from Dublin Bay South, when we came together to consider the proposed expansion of the Metrolink project through our constituency.

Some were outright opposed to the whole Metro idea, while others just wanted to cut out the southside link. Others, including myself, recognised the need to provide greater capacity on the Green line but wanted a different design approach to be taken.

Current design has to change

However, we all agreed on one point, that the current design has to change. We were all concerned that the new fully segregated rail line will cause serious problems for local people. Closing all the roads and pedestrian crossings along the Luas line, will divide every local community between Beechwood and Sandyford.

It will have severe consequences for local business and will make it harder for old people, parents with buggies, cyclists and disabled people to move around their own neighbourhood.

No amount of footbridges, lifts or underpasses will solve the problem. Any benefits from the Metro upgrade will be outweighed by the cost of dividing local communities apart.

The Metro concept adopted by Transport Infrastructure Ireland is similar to the one used in Copenhagen, where a driverless train runs along a line that is kept clear at all times.  It would work in Dublin were it were not for the fact we are trying to adapt it onto a Luas Line, which was developed with a completely different vision for urban mobility. It was one that sought to maximise integration of transport with the communities served.

 Luas accessibility

Luas has been a success because of this level of accessibility. The benefits are hard to quantify and will only be properly noticed when they are lost. This is not just an issue at Dunville Avenue but at every station and crossing along the way.

At the same time, I recognise there is a need to increase the capacity on the Green line, which is already under severe pressure even before new developments in areas such as Cherrywood take off. As Minister for Transport the problem you have to solve is how we provide for this increase in capacity, while still retaining accessibility along and across the Green Line.

The first solution might be to continue the Metro underground from Charlemont Street to Rathfarnham, as suggested in my own submission to the Metrolink consultation process.  It would help us tackle one of the worst public transport corridors in the city while maintaining the same Metro design approach from start to finish.

Planning for this spur might take an additional two or three years but it could be done on a staggered basis, so it does not delay the rest of the project. The Luas would still connect to the Metro at Charlemont and could then be upgraded using a design solution that is appropriate to our light rail system.

Connecting to Green Line

If the Rathfarnham spur did not get the go-ahead, a second solution would be to design the Metrolink in a way which allows it connect to the Green Line without having to build a fully segregated overground line. That was the original intention in earlier planning for the project.

I understand detailed analysis has been done which will show that moving to 90 meter trams could provide us the capacity increase we need, without having to compromise existing accessibility. Such a revision would involve the additional expense of lengthening the underground stations up from 60 to 90 meters, but that would also future proof the entire system to cope with long term growth.

This solution might also require the retention of a driver. This need not necessarily increase the cost and it is hard to see what benefits would be offered by a driverless system on a line where stations are so close together and which is so integrated with the surrounding neighbourhood.

Political responsibility

It will be hard for the National Transport Authority to revise their own scheme but I believe you have the political responsibility and mandate to insure these options are considered.

Rather than allowing the whole project to proceed to An Bord Pleanala for a yes/no decision, I am asking that you establish a very short and high level review. It should look at this one issue of how we can integrate a segregated and driverless design concept into a light rail system which was built with local accessibility in mind.

I am aware of very reputable and experienced engineers who would be able to undertake such a review for your department. It should only take a few short months to be commissioned and completed.

I would ask you and your Cabinet colleagues consider and agree to such a review prior to the summer break. Such timing would avoid any unduly delay in the planning process. It would be a valid part of the consultation process and would allow us test the Transport Infrastructure Ireland design assumptions in an appropriate way.

I have copied this message to the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Housing and Local Government and I look forward to hearing back with your response to this proposal.

Yours sincerely,

Eamon Ryan TD

Eamon Ryan is leader of the Green Party. He will be holding a public meeting at 7.30 this evening in the Evergreen Hall in Terenure, where they hope to discuss the above options. Everyone is most welcome to come along.

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About the author:

Eamon Ryan  / TD and leader of the Green Party

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