Cyclist safety uncertain as Luas Cross City prepares to launch

With the Luas Cross City project almost launched, Lee Shields explores the dangers to the city’s cyclists as Luas tracks have been extended across the city.

The new Luas Cross City line is due for it’s official start of service on Saturday at 2pm.  The service is an extension of the Green Line through the City Centre to Broombridge.

The project was started back in June 2013 and has produced an additional 5.9km of track through countless hours of costly construction to deliver a more efficient travel for cross city commuters.

This new line, although a welcomed change to a somewhat primitive city in public transport as compared to our European counterparts, has come with some backlash.  That being the safety of cyclists, where problems arose even during the construction of the tracks.

Areas which have proved problematic are those which are heavily congested with traffic, with luas tracks on the road and it’s difficult to manoeuvre with cars tailgating.  The affected areas include Dawson Street, Nassau Street, Lower Grafton Street and College Street on the south side and Parnell Square, Dominick Street and Marlborough Street on the north side.

These areas were included in a report by the National Transport Association (NTA).  The report called ‘Assessment of cycling feasibility on the Luas Cross City route’, was published in mid-October. However, Colm Ryder, the chairperson from the Dublin Cycling Campaign (DCC), stated that although the report issued a variety of warnings on safety for cyclists at these locations, “There has been a deal of confusion over this report and its recommendations.”

Mr. Ryder informed me that over the past year DCC had been engaging with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the agency responsible for cyclists’ safety.  However, although discussions were progressing they have ceased, and he said, “no developments have taken place since early this year, which, to say the least, is very disappointing and we could even say negligent on the part of TII.”

One safety precautioned that had been discussed was a rubber infill along the tracks that would be mostly dangerous towards cyclists.  These rubber infills deemed to be quite expensive, ranging to €800,000 per kilometre.  However, the engineering consultants, Jacobs, deemed that it would only be necessary in high risk areas.  But, the trams would end up tearing the rubber, and would need replacing regularly.

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Image: Lee Shields

 

Colm Ryder stated, “Rubberised track inserts have been discussed, and initially recommended in the 2012 Jacobs Report.  But, TII state that the replacement cost of these is too prohibitive.  Dublin Cycling Campaign say that not enough investigation has been done in terms of their efficacy, but also how many locations would they be required in? We have been told that they would have to be replaced regularly, but that should not be the issue. If they have to be replaced so be it, if they improve safety.”

I got in contact with TII and the LuasPR returned somewhat contradictory statements.  They said, “Regarding the rubber infill, it is deemed better practice to not have infill in the track areas once trams are running to schedule which has been the case now for 3 months.”

As regards to their concern about cyclist safety, they said that a final review has been carried out on the design of traffic arrangements at busy junctions such as College Green.  They state that signage will be erected in these areas advising cyclists to dismount before entering the area and remount when it is safe to do so.  However, Colm Ryder added to this point saying, “to be clear cyclists are not banned from using any part of the on-street LUAS lines on the new route.”

In addition to the signage, LuasPR said, “In parallel with the erection of the new signage NTA are also working with Dublin City Council to provide a two-way cycle lane through College Green (on the Bank of Ireland side) which will link College Street to Dame Street (for westbound cyclists) and link Dame Street to Westmoreland Street (for northbound cyclists). This cycle-way does not form part of the Luas Cross City project.”  Obviously new specific cycle lanes would increase safety, but how long this will take remains unclear.

As regards to complaints put forward on this matter they said, “There have been a relatively small number of complaints during the project which have been dealt with on an individual basis by our team.”  Colm Ryder contradicts this claim however saying that, “In relation to cyclists’ complaints, we in Dublin Cycling Campaign have received numerous stories and reports of cycling accidents/incidents over the past months, some of them quite serious.”

“We recommend that cyclists proceed with the greatest caution when riding parallel to the tracks, and ideally keep their speed at a safe level, to ensure that they can make any required manoeuvres easily and safely.  But in the case of the Dublin track layout, an awful lot is being asked of the cyclist, in terms of trying to stay safe!”

Over-priced, under-funded: the numbers behind Dublin’s transport system

The year is 2011, a jubilant Enda Kenny has been elected as Taoiseach for the first time, Labour are still a credible political party, the Arab Spring is in full swing and Donald Trump has just finished the eleventh season of the Apprentice.

More importantly at the end of 2011 the price of a one way fare on Dublin Bus is €2.30. The price of a trip on the DART is similar, €2.40 to be exact. The cash price for both Dublin Bus and Irish Rail has been increased every single year since then, as well as for Luas and Bus Éireann.

2012 and the same journey on the bus or the DART is suddenly more expensive. DART prices aren’t too heavily altered, with a four percent increase from €2.40 to €2.50. Dublin Bus is a different story however. Suddenly you’re paying €2.65 for the same journey you were paying €2.30 for yesterday, a whopping fifteen percent increase.

2013 is no different, with DART prices shooting up to €2.80, an increase of twelve percent. Dublin Bus went up by another 15c to €2.80, another five percent increase.

2014 encompassed a huge leap in price for both Dublin Bus and DART prices. They both leapt from €2.80 to €3.05, a nine percent increase on the previous year.

The prices have continued to rise since then, Dublin Bus is now €3.30 and the DART is €3.25. That means that in a five-year period Dublin Bus prices have increased 43 percent and DART prices 35 percent.

That’s just inflation though right? Not quite. When the percentage increases in public transport is compared to the average inflation in Ireland over the last five years it doesn’t add up.

The highest inflation has been over those years was in 2011, when it was 2.45 percent. It hasn’t surpassed two percent since then and was actually minus 0.3 percent in 2014.

Dublin now has the seventh most expensive public transport system in the whole world, ahead of New York, Berlin, or Barcelona.

That stat is made more ridiculous considering how poor Ireland’s public transport system is.

Dublin Airport is one of the only major European airports without any sort of rail connection. The new “Metro North” underground system won’t be operational until 2026, at the absolute earliest.

There are regularly waits of half an hour for a DART or bus, and sometimes even an hour in off peak times. This doesn’t happen in London or New York or many other major cities, where waiting times on public transport are rarely over ten minutes.

When all this information is analysed it doesn’t reflect well on Ireland and its transport system. If the price of public transport is so much how can the actual system be as poor as it is?

The problem may lie in the subsidies provided by the government.

Back in 2013 TD Clare Daly, then of United Left Alliance, claimed that Ireland has the least subsidised public transport in Europe and asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to increase funding, especially to Bus Éireann to enable them to cut prices.

Kenny refuted this, but did not present anything to argue against it and while the funding to public transport has not been cut over the last few years it also hasn’t been increased, which may be where the problem lies.

In summary, Irish public transport rises on average by about eight percent every year, the Dublin transport system is the seventh most expensive in the world, Dublin Airport is one of the worst connected major airports in Europe and the whole Irish transport system is massively underfunded.

No wonder so many people have a new bike at the top of their Christmas lists.

By Leo McGuinn

More public transport journeys despite 2016 strikes

Most Dubliners chose to travel on Dublin Bus in 2016 according to new figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Over 125 million bus journeys were taken over the course of the twelve months. The number of bus journeys taken in 2016 jumped 2.7 percent from 2015.

DB
Source: CSO

November was the most popular month for Dublin Bus, with 11,318,902 journeys taken. A sharp decrease in Dublin Bus journeys was seen in September 2016. That coincided with the bus strikes which plagued the capital across five days in September.

DB monthly
Source: CSO

Rail journeys in 2016 increased to just shy of 43 million, up from just over 39.5 million the previous year. This gave a total increase of 7.96 percent.

RAIL
Source: CSO

While the total number of journeys taken across all Irish Rail services (including DART and commuter services) took a hit in 2013, the total number of journeys have increased by an average of 5.2 percent per year since.

DART
Source: CSO

Overall, 44.3 percent of all rail journeys taken in 2016 were on the DART. DART journeys increased to nearly 19 million in 2016, an increase of 10.7 percent from 2015. DART journeys also increased dramatically in 2015, up 7.5 percent from the previous year.

The only form of public transport in Dublin that did not see an increase in 2016 was the Luas. There was a decrease of over 500,000 journeys.

LUAS
Source: CSO

This decrease of 1.65 percent was uncharacteristic for the Luas as journeys had increased year on year from 2012 to 2015.

The Red Line proved to be more popular with commuters, with 22.4 percent more journeys taken on the Red Line than the Green Line in 2016.

Luas lines
Source: CSO

Like Dublin Bus, the Luas was also hit by twelve days of industrial action in 2016. This can be seen in the sharp decrease in the amount of journeys taken on the Red Line between April and June. The strike did not, however, seem to have as dramatic an effect on the Green Line, with journeys increasing between May and June despite several strike days.

These figures, announced last week as part of the CSO’s annual travel omnibus, are released as further transport strikes threaten to leave commuters stranded. Iarnród Éireann strikes are set to affect more than 150,000 daily commuters amid rows over pay. Rail workers are looking for 11 percent pay increases over the next three years.

The first strike took place on Wednesday 1st November, with further strikes planned for the 7th, 14th and 23rd of November, as well as the 8th of December.

Reports in Irish newspapers recently suggested that workers may also strike on Christmas Eve.

By Louise Burne

Passengers stalled as train strike takes hold

There are delays expected on DART and Iarnród Éireann services as this morning’s train strike came into effect earlier.

The most significant news from this morning’s strike is that there will be no services for the Docklands with a bus service operating from M3 Parkway and Clonsilla.

The strike took place between 6 and 9 am this morning after a dispute between Irish Rail and the two major unions for train drivers, SIPTU and the National Bus and Railworkers’ Union (NBRU), over bonuses for previous years went unresolved.

The parties were still in discussions late last night to avert strike action. This is not the first expected strike as one is also being scheduled for two weeks time on November 6th.

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New transport strategy for greater Dublin area announced

Plans have been revealed for an overhaul of Dublin’s transport infrastructure, including extensions of the Luas to Lucan and to Finglas.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) this week released details of its new draft Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035.

The strategy aims to set out a “cohesive and integrated transport framework to support and sustain the region’s development”.

The strategy outlines a new Core Bus Network which will have 16 radial bus corridors, 3 orbital bus corridors and 6 regional bus corridors. It also contains plans for a Luas to run to Poolbeg, Finglas, and Lucan.

There are also plans for Metro North and South, running from St Stephen’s Green to Brides Glen and from St Stephen’s Green to Swords. They also hope to construct the Greater Dublin Cycling Network, which will be over 1,485 kilometres in length.

“The purpose of our draft transport strategy is to contribute to the economic, social and cultural progress of the Greater Dublin Area by providing for the efficient, effective and sustainable movement of people and goods,” CEO of the National Transport Authority, Anne Graham said.

“The long-term success of the country’s capital region depends on sound and considered long-term strategic planning. We are therefore encouraging as many people as possible to read our proposals, and the background documentation, and to let us know their views by taking part in our consultation before November 13th,” she said.

Other works outlined include reopening the Phoenix Park Tunnel for passenger services, which will link the Kildare/Cork line to the city centre, expanding the DART to reach as far as Drogheda, and also the widening of the M50 to three lanes in each direction between Sandyford and the M11.

Full details of the NTA’s proposed plans and where changes may be made near you are available at their website.

Dublin Bus and the ‘All-Nighter’

Dublin bus is one of the transport units who are set to increase prices

State-owned Dublin Bus are examining and considering the possibility of introducing a 24 hour service, just weeks after increasing fare prices.

Public transport users will benefit from services that will run throughout the night if the proposal to the Labour Relations Commission is approved.

Dublin Bus is in talks to oversee that a service to the people of the capital is provided throughout the day and night.

At present Dublin Bus runs until approximately 11.45 p.m. midweek, with the highly relied on NiteLink service catering for the needs of those residing in Dublin city and the suburbs by providing a transport service on Friday and Saturday that doesn’t finish until approximately 4 a.m.

Nitelink prices recently soared to €6.50 from €5.00 under revised plans by Dublin Bus.

The visual difference between the Nitelink service and the ordinary Dublin Bus service is that the Nitelink bus is marked with an ‘n’, for example 25n. The ‘n’ represents the during-the-night, two day service.

Up to 5,000 seats added to DUB-LCY route

 

LCY runway at dusk
LCY runway. Credit: London City Airport

From today (October 27), London City Airport (LCY) will receive up to 5,000 more seats a week from Dublin when British Airways and FlyBe join Cityjet on the Dublin to London route.

British Airways commenced a five-a-day service from Dublin to London City Airport yesterday using a mix of Embraer 170 and 190 jets.

Willie Walsh at launch of BA's DUB-LCY route
Credit: Eoghan Corry/Travel Extra

Willie Walsh (pictured), the Dublin-born chief executive of International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, said: “[The DUB-LCY route] complements our existing London Heathrow service and the excellent schedule means customers will have plenty of choice whether flying for business or leisure.”

The airline hopes to attract business travellers with an early morning departure from Dublin (07:00).

Regional airline FlyBe’s new service launches today.  The airline is also targeting business travellers with four daily flights starting at 07:00 as well.

Dublin’s US immigration pre-clearance facilities are an attractive feature for westbound travellers in Britain.  FlyBe recently signed an interline deal with Aer Lingus that allows travellers from Britain to connect on the Irish carrier’s transatlantic services using the same ticket.

However, FlyBe chief executive Saad Hammad has suggested the airline will not immediately target this niche.

Another Dublin native, Declan Collier, CEO of LCY, naturally welcomed the two new routes.

“Our vision to position LCY as the airport of choice for both business and leisure passengers has received a huge boost as a result of this news,” he said.  “We believe that the increased capacity on the route is good news for passengers, offering more choice of when and how to travel.  And I can’t deny that I privately welcome the news as it greatly enhances my own options for flying back home to Ireland.”

The route will now be serviced by 15 daily flights from three three airlines.