The stormy weather of last few days has had truly tragic consequences for some and provided a greater number of near misses for others. Power outages and event cancellations have quite serious human and economic consequences.
The loss of the Luas Green Line service for two days and the ensuing traffic chaos along its catchment areas was a sobering event for many.
Just imagine if the Green Luas line was out of action for 18 to 24 months.
But that is exactly what we should be preparing for if the hare-brained proposal to cannibalise the portion of the Luas Green line from Charlemont to Sandyford as a southern extension of the Metro North project goes ahead.
The result would be that the dismembered Luas Green line would thereafter consist of only two parts – the cross city Luas recently opened at a cost of €368 million and a totally separate Luas line between Sandyford, Cherrywood and Brides Glen.
Incorporating the remaining middle section into a high speed Metro service would entail the reconstruction of all the existing Luas halts between Charlemont and Sandyford into totally different, closed-off Metro stations with much higher platforms, glass panelled partitions with sliding glass doors giving access to driver-less trains, separating the trackway from all access, building underpasses, over-bridges and lifts in some places.
Very extensive works at Charlemont to permit the Metro tunnel to surface at Dartmouth road and possible major bridgebuilding at Dunville Avenue is part of the plan.
When NTA officials unveiled their plans to local Oireachtas members recently, they made the utterly incredible claim that all of that part of the works could and would be started and completed in a period of 6 months!
That astonishing claim left their audience open-mouthed. A child could see that it was more likely to take 18 months to two years.
The same officials also admitted that there would have to be an additional 3 month closure once the works were completed to enable the high speed Metro train service to be tested and commissioned.
On any sane view, the Green Line service will be largely out of action for the guts of two years if the Metro North line is not left to terminate at St Stephen’s Green as was planned up to a year ago.
What is the extra cost of cannibalising the Luas Green Line from Charlemont to Sandyford? What are the supposed benefits? We are probably talking about hundreds of millions of euro in new stations, bridges underpasses, and segregation measures.
And what is the intended result? The new planned suburb of Cherrywood will still not have a Metro service. That will only go as far as Sandyford.
Commuters from areas south of Sandyford station will have to change from trams to the Metro train at Sandyford and change back to a tram at Charlemont if they want to go, say, to DIT at Broadstone on the cross-city Luas.
Luas trams will not be able to use the cannibalised section of the old Green Luas line.
The strange thing is that Shane Ross on 14th November 2017 had announced with some fanfare that he was spending €100 million on purchasing 8 new 55 metre tram sets, converting the existing tram sets to 55 metre length and lengthening all of the Green line Luas platforms to accommodate the longer trams.
This, he said, would cater for the increased demand on the Green line to 2027.
Oddly, too, the Government at that time were suggesting that they would be building four new Luas tram lines to Bray, Lucan, Finglas and Poolbeg.
But there is no plan to do any of this anytime soon. The Taoiseach described the plans as “tentative” in December last. Nothing will be done for Lucan in the next decade apparently
A new Luas line to Lucan had been previously announced, planned, mapped-out but is now quietly shelved for the foreseeable future.
Another planned Luas line through Dundrum, Rathfarnham, Terenure, Harolds Cross to the city centre also was scrapped.
The Lucan line was transformed into a plan to connect Lucan to an underground Dart service at Inchicore. But the underground east-west Dart plan of the Railway Procurement Authority was itself scrapped.
Does any of this sound familiar? Our memories, alas, are fleeting – along with all these promises.
Shane Ross came to the Seanad on Thursday to a session arranged to discuss his transport plans, and he delivered a speech crammed with aspirations, devoid largely of time commitments and digressing for some reason at some length into his plans for Sports Campus Ireland.
Asked about the absence of a detailed cost benefit analysis for the plan to cannibalise the Luas Green line, he said that a “business case” was in the course of preparation and would be considered by Government before the works started.
Asked about the need to reconfigure the Green line to accommodate high speed Metro trains, he airily said that some of the platforms might need to be adjusted. That is a major understatement. The new Metro stations will be radically different from the existing Luas halts.
No costs or time lines for the Luas outage were even mentioned by him.
By the way, the same NTA officials also informed the Oireachtas members that they were now considering abandoning their original plans for a twin-tunnel underground section of the Metro in favour of a single-bore tunnel system.
Nobody in the Seanad had any idea that the Minister had the previous night in his own constituency disavowed any responsibility for the controversial Bus Connects plan which is to cost us €2 billion. On the contrary he mildly reproved those politicians who he said were fanning the flames of disquiet about the Bus Connects published plans.
Does the Minister accept that his plans will probably close the Luas Green line for the bones of two years? He failed to address that issue in the Seanad. I doubt he dealt with it at his constituency meeting either.
What is the advantage in gobbling up a stretch of the Luas Green line?
Why not terminate the Metro North at St Stephens Green? Why not maximise capacity on the existing tram service with longer trams and more frequent services at least to to St Stephens Green?
What is the cost of the extension of Metro to Sandyford? Does anybody care? The NTA spent €170 million on planning their proposal before even asking for public approval.
There was never any debate on whether we could use the €3 or €4 billion better on different tram services. They are dissembling on the down-side of their proposals, including the lengthy closure of the Green line service.
We really need political oversight and accountability for the decisions being made.
It isn’t good enough to say that all these decisions are the responsibility of an independent quango.
It’s our money. Our future. Our city. Politicians must be accountable and act accountably.