Two cheers for the new metro

4th August 2000

I’M not really sure what to make of the Government’s new metro plans but it’s certainly a move in the right direction.

There are a number of things which are immediately welcome. Firstly, the numbers. £4.5 billion is the kind of figure that can make inroads to the traffic problem. Until recently we were talking about £500 million over a 10 year period.

Secondly, they’re talking capacity of 50,000 per hour rather than 6,500 per hour as with the Luas.

Thirdly, they’re talking segregation, which means that the new trains will have routes all to themselves and particularly an underground section in the city centre.

But I’m nervous. I have the press release from the Department of Public Enterprise to hand and it doesn’t inspire confidence.

It talks about ‘metro’. Why ‘metro’? Why not ‘DART’?

DART is designed for underground operation, is very reliable and is very familiar and popular.

I smell a botch job here. The decision has been made to retain the Luas from Sandyford to Stephen’s Green.

This Luas technology is new to Ireland. It uses standard European gauge (rail width) which is incompatible with Irish gauge (approximately 6 inches wider). Also, the overhead cable is using a different voltage to DART.

Therefore DART and Luas cannot share the same line. But the Government cannot abandon the Sandyford Luas at this stage without provoking a political holy war on the southside.

So I’m guessing what the Government has decided to do is to make the new ‘metro’ compatible with the Luas and that this metro will then be used citywide.

So Dublin will then have three separate rail technologies each incompatible in their own way with each other.

I would like to get down on my knees at this point and beg the Government not to make this decision.

This will lead, over the next 20 to 30 years to waste, unnecessary duplication and transport cul-de-sacs for the Dublin public transport system.

The combination of Luas and DART is ideal. DART can be used on the main arterial routes where large capacity is required (such as the Sandyford line). Luas could act as an ‘infill’ rail transport system and in the suburbs where flexibility is required. I’ve seen combinations of this type and they work very well.

The DART can then be extended along all the current rail lines and give direct access to the city centre.

A possible solution to the Sandyford problem would be to decide to use DART technology immediately and build the line up to the proposed Charlemont station on the Grand Canal.

This would leave passengers within walking distance of the business district and provide a transport corridor through the southside. A shuttle bus could take passengers into town. It might even be possible to build a single DART line up to Stephen’s Green depending on the alignment.

This would be an acceptable solution until the line is extended into town via a tunnel.

The Government’s desire to get something up and running immediately is commendable. But their announcement misses out on the main opportunities available in the short term.

That is to extend the DART to Maynooth and Naas along existing lines. This would allow hundreds of thousands of people in in Dublin and Kildare easy access to the city centre.

The capacity problem at Connolly Station could easily be resolved with a flyover for DART services. It’s such an attractive option because it will require so little planning friction, the main time obstacle to major infrastructure projects.

Also, new DART rolling stock can be ordered off the plans as new units are currently being built. The two Kildare lines are already integrated into the signalling system.

So it’s two cheers for the Government’s plans. But they must bear in mind that plans laid now will be with us for the next 100 years. They better get it right.


As well as that…

Naming Names

Passing through Ballyfermot earlier this week I couldn’t help noticing the litter strewn around the Gala hall.

On closer inspection it transpired that the source was two litter bins that were packed to overflowing and the wind did the rest.

This week Dublin Corporation started publishing the names of those prosecuted for litter offences. Dead right too.

But guess whose bins were overflowing? Guess who has responsibility for emptying the bins?

Guess whose name won’t be on the list?


So Predictable

I knew when Regina Felloni did a runner it would only take a few hours.

A few hours, that is, for some right winger to complain about Felloni getting driving lessons at the taxpayers’ expense.

Why don’t the Hang ‘Em and Flog ‘Em Brigade use their brains once in a while? I suppose they would like prisoners released after their last torture session, thrown naked out the door of Mountjoy.

Anyone with a whit of cop-on can see that prisoners have to be acclimatised to the outside world. It just doesn’t work every time. Like when you don’t detox people, for example.