When Dublin embraced the Luas over a decade ago there was one bewildering aspect of the system that left many of us wondering: why didn’t the two lines join?
The ostensible ‘missing link’ as it became known was a source of derision for Dubliners confused about the perceived lack of planning. However, separated at birth these twins are now about to be rejoined in their teens.
The construction of Luas Cross-City began in the summer of 2013. Several years on and many Dubliners are still somewhat bemused and a little ill-informed by the tram line; where will it join, what’s the route?
“I still don’t know where they’re gonna bleedin’ go”, a taxi driver revealed. “The airport, is it?”
We can be forgiven for our apprehension. We’re used to being promised such and such only for such and such to be postponed, delayed, or to come in outrageously over budget (or all of the above). We tend to pay little attention before the thing is finished. And then we ridicule it, like we did the Luas in the beginning.
The rejoining is almost nearing completion. It may not seem like it, though, but by the end of 2017 it is expected to be in operation. At the moment O’Connell Street looks worse for wear, and moving up into Cabra much of the tracks have yet to be laid.
“Probably won’t be finished for year”, says the taxi man.
But developers are adamant: the Luas lines shall be linked by Christmas.
It is desperately needed, anybody who commutes into the north side of the city will tell you. During the morning rush it can take over an hour to reach the city centre from Cabra, a semi-suburb just six kilometres from Grafton Street. Many people simply walk into town.
From Broombridge – the new terminus at the Royal Canal in west Cabra – it will take just 21 minutes to reach Stephen’s Green where the lines join.
Much of the traffic entering and exiting the city in the morning and evening will be reduced. The majority of this traffic uses the Navan Road which is a source of many of the problems. Commuters from the Maynooth train line, which services Clonsilla, Coolmine and Leixlip, will be able to disembark at Broombridge and be in the city in less than 15 minutes.
For students it will become easier to travel between universities and the city. For example, passengers will be able to travel from Maynooth University and the city centre in less than 40 minutes. There is an added benefit of being able to link up with the red and green lines, which serve everywhere between the city and Tallaght and Bride’s Glen near Shankill.
The new line will link the west and north of the city, which has until now required two bus journeys. It is not uncommon to spend 90 minutes travelling from, say, Ballyfermot, to Glasnevin. Passengers will now be able to travel from Tallaght to Cabra and everywhere between in less than an hour.
Also, tourists will be able to access both Glansnevin Cemetery and the Botanic Gardens.
The benefits are numerous, the most important of which is the increased fluidity with which we will be able to move through the city, something our rigid public transport system has lacked. We have a traditional public transport system which has been stagnant for years.
The latest light rail lines, along with further lines which are planned, have both economic and health benefits. Research has shown that they contribute to cleaner air and cleaner waterways, which will reduce the amount of harmful emissions we breathe from the large amount of cars in the city.
A more efficient system also benefits passengers who spend large amounts of time on buses and trains. Commuters spend less time travelling and more are able to access the city quicker from commuter towns such as Maynooth.
We are moving in the right direction. However, there is still work to be done.
Linking the suburbs with more light rail systems is essential; places like Coolock, Finglas, Crumlin and Ballymun are in need of further services. Many commuters in these areas use cars or spend enormous amounts of time on buses.
DCU needs better access; UCD and Trinity College benefit from the Luas service, and so too will DIT Grangegorman. Similarly, our airport needs to be linked directly with the city by rail.