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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 27 February 2021

What ever happened to the plans for that super fast bus between Dublin city and the airport?

In 2014, a new transport initiative was announced to try to alleviate traffic in Dublin – but is it still going ahead?

swiftway The proposed Swiftway bus transport

AS ANYONE WHO has ever sat in their car or on a bus in the morning will testify, traffic in Dublin can be a bit of a nightmare.

One busy route in particular is along the Swords Road – from Dublin Airport, through Whitehall, onto Drumcondra Road and into the city centre.

In 2014, a new transport initiative was announced to try to alleviate traffic along this and other routes in Dublin – Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), or Swiftway.

Swiftway transport would mean regular, fast-moving single-decker buses travelling from Swords to the city centre along their own dedicated lane at peak traffic times.

According to the National Transport Authority (NTA), the service was to “emulate the performance and service characteristics of a light-rail system like Luas – but at about a third of the cost”.

After a consultation period that was to finish in late-2014 – and subject to planning approval being granted – construction was to begin on the route and was predicted to take around two and a half years.

Prj-Sched The original proposed schedule of the Swiftway project Source: NTA

Following this announcement two years ago, however, the plans took second place to a more recent transport initiative: the long-awaited Metro North.

The latest plans for the Metro North - a light-rail system serving Stephen’s Green to Dublin Airport - were announced in late-September last year.

The proposed service, which was broadly welcomed across the political spectrum, has been announced and shelved a number of times before.

Construction on its latest incarnation is due to begin in 2021, with a view to being completed by 2026/27.

However, traffic along the route from Swords to the city centre still remains an issue – so is the BRT still coming, or has it been shelved in favour of the Metro?

“A real issue”

“Planning permission was expected for the service in 2016,” local Sinn Féin councillor Noeleen Reilly told TheJournal.ie.

But they put it back until they saw what to do with Metro North.

Reilly said that construction on the pathway was originally due to be finished by the end of 2017. However, following the lengthy consultation period for the BRT service, planning permission was never sought for it.

She said that she has received numerous complaints from people in her area – particularly parents who bring their children to school – about the growing traffic problems along the route in Drumcondra, Whitehall, Santry and Swords.

“There are more people on the roads now – but there isn’t the public transport there to be used,” said Reilly.

“It’s a real issue.”

Traffic is particularly heavy at peak times at certain junctions along the route from the airport.

For example, at the junction of Larkhill and the Swords Road before Whitehall traffic is very heavy in the mornings and evenings.

larkill traff The junction of Swords Road and Larkhill Source: Google Maps

Compounding the problem is the fact that Dublin City Council is not reviewing or recommending any changes to traffic-heavy areas along the Swords route – as the National Transport Authority (NTA) is “currently designing the proposed Swiftway Bus Rapid Transit scheme” for these areas.

In relation to the Larkhill junction, the council’s area traffic engineer said in an email to Reilly:

Dublin City Council are not currently recommending to alter the junction layout at this time, but are awaiting the detailed design drawings for the junction to be published by the National Transport Authority.

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“It’s just a bit of a nightmare because you can’t get anything done,” said Reilly.

I fear we will be talking about these works taking place in ten years time and residents living in the area will still be faced with traffic gridlock every day.

Future plans

Following the detailed proposals put forward for the BRT Swiftway service from Swords in 2014, the plans have been pared back.

In its Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035, the NTA states that ahead of the Metro North being built “it will be necessary to provide a higher level of public transport capacity than the existing provision.”

However, it states now that this higher capacity “will take the form of a BRT service or a BRT type service or a conventional bus corridor upgrade along this route or parts of this route.”

This means that the rapid bus transport might not be built for the Swords route. An upgrade to the existing bus services could be on the cards instead.

download (9) Enda Kenny, Joan Burton, with Brendan Howlin and Paschal Donohoe at the Metro North Launch in September Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The NTA states that the ”exact arrangements” of any development will be determined in conjunction with the arrangements with the Metro North.

Until then, however, Dublin City Council says that it won’t be developing any of the junctions along the Swords route until the “BRT proposals are finalised”.

In a statement, the Department of Transport said that the NTA had been asked to keep the transport requirements for the area “under review” for the next 10 years.

Read: Swords to Dublin City in 35 mins? New bus planners want to know what you think

Read: Dubliners are being promised a 14-stop Metro North link to the airport

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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