Thursday 26 May 2011

Hearing into Luas red and green line link-up opens

DUBLIN’S CROSS-CITY Luas line linking the existing red and green lines could be completed ahead of the 1916 centenary celebrations if there was “timely Government approval” of the project, An Bord Pleanála has heard.

A public planning hearing on the railway order for the “missing link” between the two Luas lines began yesterday, although there is no current Government commitment to fund the project.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar last month said only one of the “big three” transport projects – Metro North, Dart Underground and the Luas interconnector – would go ahead in the next five years. A decision on which project would succeed would be made next September.

The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) told the hearing it had received recent confirmation from the National Transportation Authority that, due to finances, the three projects would not be implemented simultaneously.

Michael Sheedy, the RPA’s director of light rail, said it was not, therefore, possible to give timing of the implementation of the Luas project.

The RPA was aware it was the Government’s intention to decide in the autumn which project would be selected, but if Luas was chosen to proceed at an early date the line could be finished before 2016, avoiding conflict with the Rising commemorations.

The proposed 5.6km line, to be called Luas Broombridge, would run from the terminus of the green line at St Stephen’s Green through the city centre, via Dawson Street, College Green, Westmoreland Street and O’Connell Street, where it would connect to the red line.

It then would run northwest to Broadstone, Grangegorman and Phibsboro via the disused midland railway line before terminating at Broombridge Station in Cabra. On its return the line would bypass O’Connell Street and use Marlborough Street to access a new Liffey bridge to Hawkins Street, before meeting back with the northbound line at College Green.

The line would initially have 13 stops, with a 14th planned for Grangegorman once the DIT campus has relocated to the former mental hospital site. The route has also been designed to allow an extension to Finglas.

The construction of Metro North, which is also under the remit of the RPA, was not a suitable or cost-effective solution to linking the existing Luas lines, Mr Sheedy said. Although the metro is also intended to run from St Stephen’s Green across the city, it would not provide the same degree of “city centre permeability”.

A property owners’ protection scheme would not be put in place for the Luas construction phase because no structural damage to property was envisaged, RPA contracts manager Ciaran Browne told the hearing. The construction work would be similar to normal road and utility works, and it was the RPA’s experience on previous Luas projects that there was no structural damage to buildings, Mr Browne said.

An Bord Pleanála sent 91 letters to those who made objections to or submissions on the Luas line, inviting them to attend the hearing. Fewer than 20 parties attended the opening of the hearing yesterday.

Irish Times

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