Wednesday 15 September 2010

Council opposes overhead cables on cross-city Luas line

DUBLIN CITY Council is opposing a plan to use overhead power cables on the proposed cross-city Luas line because of their detrimental effect on the city’s “exceptional” and “exquisite” architecture.

The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) wants to use the same overhead power supply system on the new line, which will link the Sandyford and Tallaght lines before continuing on to Broombridge in Cabra, as it does on the existing lines.

However, the council said the proposal was not acceptable in the city centre. The route the Luas will take – from St Stephen’s Green, down Dawson Street, through College Green, across O’Connell Bridge, and up O’Connell Street to Parnell Square – passes the city’s most significant public buildings, it said.

College Green in particular consisted of a “progression of exceptional classical buildings”, including the “exquisite” portico of the Bank of Ireland, which should not be compromised by cables and wires. Comparisons made by the RPA in relation to the wiring used by early 20th century trams in the city centre were “not an argument of weight” in the context of best-practice building conservation, the council said.

The RPA should provide an alternative wire-free system, the council argued. It said it was in favour of the overall project but it urged An Bord Pleanála to make it a condition of the railway order that St Stephen’s Green to Parnell Square be a wire-free zone.

The council’s position is supported by the Dublin Civic Trust, which submitted that the overhead lines would have a damaging impact on “large swathes of the ceremonial core of the city”. The Irish Georgian Society is also against the use of overhead lines.

The RPA June applied to An Bord Pleanála last for a railway order to construct the new line. A date for a public hearing on the project is expected to be announced soon by the planning board.

The RPA said it investigated a wire-free option that has been used on trams in Bordeaux in France since 2003. The system uses a third rail embedded in the road between the tram tracks which becomes energised as it hits connectors underneath the tram, but switches off when the tram passes.

However, the RPA said the technology was still new and there were concerns over its robustness, reliability and safety; and it was “substantially” more expensive.

A second bone of contention for the council is that the RPA’s plans to run the Luas along the central plaza of O’Connell Street. The council had undertaken a major improvement scheme of the street in recent years and the widened median was the central element of the design. The proposed alignment would “detrimentally affect the integrity of the newly completed scheme,” the council said, and should not be permitted.

Irish Times

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