Thursday 23 April 2009

'Bus gate' plans for Dublin city centre to be scaled back

DUBLIN CITY Council intends to scale back significantly its plans for a “bus gate” at College Green despite warnings from Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey that he wants the car-free zone in place by July.

The council’s traffic department had proposed a 24-hour public-transport-only route from Dame Street across College Green to Westmoreland Street.

A similar restriction would be in place for private traffic coming in the opposite direction, from D’Olier Street around College Green and into Dame Street.

Access to car parks would be retained, but private cars would be prevented from using O’Connell Bridge to cross the city.

The bus gate is part of the council’s City Centre Transport Plan for the management of traffic and the improvement of public transport up to 2020.

It is also necessary to allow work on the construction of Metro North to begin and to facilitate the Luas BX line which will connect the Luas red and green lines with a preferred route through College Green. However following lobbying from city business interests the council’s transport committee yesterday voted to restrict the bus gate to 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm Monday to Friday only.

Almost 80 per cent of submissions received during public consultation were opposed to the bus gate. The opposition came mainly from local retailers and car park owners who fear loss of business.

The traffic department yesterday told the transport committee that a retail assessment by Goodbody Consultants found the maximum potential decrease as a result of the bus gate would be 3.2 per cent. Several councillors on the committee remained in favour of the bus gate, although they voted for the reduced hours.

“If we continue to let cars drive through the city centre without restriction it will reduce the amount of people who can get into town and that will do serious damage to city centre businesses,” Labour councillor Andrew Montague said.

Labour’s Michael Conaghan said businesses had lobbied against the pedestrianisation of Grafton Street but it had been a huge success.

Fine Gael’s Gerry Breen said that if the bus gate was to facilitate Metro North it was unnecessary. “I’ll wager that the death cert for Metro North will be signed after June 5th.”

However, Mr Dempsey has given a deadline of July to have the bus gate in place. The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) has said the traffic restriction is necessary for the development of metro and other Transport 21 projects, while Dublin Bus wants the bus gate, both to solve the current traffic congestion problems and to ensure it can still run a service through the city centre once the metro and Luas BX are in place.

The transport committee’s recommendation will now go before a full meeting of the council in May. However, the city’s director of traffic, Michael Phillips, said the bus gate could have to revert to the original 24-hours, once Metro North construction begins.

“It would be difficult at that time to have car traffic in the area, so it may have to change,” he said.

Dublin city manager John Tierney is to appear before an Oireachtas transport committee in relation to the bus gate today.

Irish Times

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