Time to look again at a Liffey Weir

KEITH Rankin has a plan. He says that Jimmy Murray came up with the original idea and the two of them thrashed it out.

It’s a very novel plan. So novel, in fact, that the first time I heard it I thought it was a load of crap. On reflection, I see now how simple and brilliant the idea is.

Let’s start at the beginning. I was going to write a column about the need for a weir on the Liffey. The idea has been around for a long time and the recent floods add an extra argument for a weir.

For one, it keeps water in the Liffey. Instead of having to look at old trolleys and mud flats at low tide, the river would have a covering of water between the quays. This has two main benefits: it looks much better and it allows the Liffey to be used for boats. In fact, it revolutionises the Liffey for amenity purposes. With a weir, floating restaurants, floating bookshops, floating theatres and floating whatever-you’re-having-yourself becomes possible. The river could become a living part of the city.

But that’s only half the story. Our beloved Liffey is not so easily tamed.

For not only is it too low at low tide but it’s too high at high tide. At very high tides even the ducks have to duck to get under the bridges.

Which is obviously no good for passenger traffic. So the weir would have to keep the water out at high tide as well as keep it in at low tide.

Assuming the weir is built downstream of the East Link bridge the city would now have a three mile stretch of water perfect for water taxis and ferries.

So the Liffey Weir represents a huge economic, cultural and transport opportunity for Dublin. But that’s not all.

No one knows what the recent flooding in Ringsend and the East Wall will cost. Estimates go into tens of millions. Not to mention the human suffering.

This could have been prevented by a Liffey weir. In the future, the flooding could get worse. It was reported that this tide was the highest since 1924, brought on by a combination of the spring tide and strong southerly winds.

In climate change models, scientists predict that sea levels will rise and that stormy weather will become more frequent. As far as I know, there is no official study of what the effects on Dublin could be. Maybe we’ve just got a taster of what it might be like.

So that’s the Liffey Weir plan.

Keith and Jimmy’s plan doesn’t involve a weir at all. Their concern is to make the Liffey work for transport now. And their plan is quite brilliant.

The first part of the idea involves a variable draught boat. This is a boat that allows water into ballast tanks to make it sink in the water and thus allow the boat to be used on the Liffey during virtually all high tides.

The second part involves cutting a channel, like a canal, in the bottom of the Liffey to allow ferries to operate at low tide. The channel would be supported by low walls which would rise about a foot over low tide level. For 22 hours of the day, these walls would be covered with water.

How do you like that for thinking outside the box! The channel could be built for little more than a dredging operation. The lads have done a preliminary feasibility study and are looking for State funding to carry out an in-depth appraisal. It’s well worth the money.

The whole point is that the Liffey offers Dublin huge threats and opportunities. At the moment, no one is doing anything about it. Surely it’s time for Dublin City Council to sit down and convene an open study to thrash out some of these ideas for the Liffey?

  As well as that…

Visit A Working Weir

IF you want to see what a weir can do for a city, simply take the train to Belfast, get out at Central Station and take a short stroll. It’s absolutely fantastic.

It is the setting against which the Waterfront was built and all the regeneration along the Lagan. Gobsmacking, really.

My plan for the Liffey

I THINK the Liffey could have another vital use. My plan would be to sink two tunnels into the bed of the river to take trains travelling between Heuston Station and Spencer Dock down in the Docklands.

An east-west tunnel is going to be built anyway – with all the hassle, objections and huge delays of tunnelling under buildings.

Stations could be built next to bridges. Imagine a glass stairwell going down to platforms just 30 feet below. Go on – think outside the box.