The Luas extension from Sandyford to Cherrywood was opening. I was saying a few words wearing my hat as Minister of State with responsibility for Smarter Travel and I took the opportunity to reflect as well as look forward.
Back in the 1980s decision makers seemed to feel that new roads could overcome any transportation problem. It was a mad time. In Dublin City, Dublin Corporation (renamed Dublin City Council in the late 1990s) was buying up old buildings left right and centre, knocking them and building roads. Thriving pubs, shops and homes were acquired, de-tenanted and then demolished. I was a student architect back then in UCD and we campaigned against these crazy policies. Meanwhile, in contrast to Dublin, cities elsewhere in Europe were building new tram systems and protecting older neighbourhoods. Cities like Grenoble and Nantes in France had put in place new light rail systems and they were working well. A friend of mine Jerome O’Drisceoil made up button badges with the simple slogan “Trams not Jams” and we gradually made our voices heard. The late Simon Perry in Trinity College exposed the folly of new road building in urban areas, and was an eloquent voice calling for rail investment. Finally the then Government commissioned the Dublin Transportation Initiative Study that led to a study advocating the construction of three light rail lines in Dublin. Two were built and we’re now proposing a Metro and Dart inter-connector that will provide further North-South and East-West links for the Capital.
The Luas Green Line which runs from Stephen’s Green in the City Centre South to Sandyford doubled in length last week. It now runs as far as Cherrywood in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. Around 26,000 additional residents live within one kilometre of the new stretch of line. Although some of the line runs through open countryside, most of the land is scheduled for development. At Cherrywood a Strategic Development Zone has been approved by Government under the 2000 Planning Act, and this allows for the fast-tracking of new development. Unlike the development of much of West Dublin where the housing was put in before the public transport, here we’ve put in place a high quality public transport link before many of the new communities are built. I pointed out in my speech at the opening that this was one of the rare examples in Irish planning where we’ve actually put the horse before the cart rather than the other way around. There was criticism at the opening at the lack of Park and Ride facilities being ready, but a large parking facility is due to open early next year at Carrickmines. There’s also a car park planned at Cherrywood, but it has been delayed due to the NAMA taking over loans relating to certain properties there. The lands at Cherrywood are scheduled for development as a new town in future years, so we have to be careful that we don’t take over key sites there on a permanent basis for surface car parking. The Bus/ Luas connections aren’t as good as I would like, and maybe there’s a role for the National Transport Authority to review this and suggest changes. However the 63 bus route now links up with the Luas which should work well. There’s also a role for the Council and the other agencies to improve walking and cycling access to the stops, as well putting in place some decent signage pointing out where the stops are.
The opening of this Luas extension was a good day for Smarter Travel, and for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. The extension came in at €293 million, under the €324 million approved budget. The project has created and is sustaining ‘Green Collar” jobs at every skill level from cleaners to line managers. A journey on the Luas requires one tenth the energy of a car, and that all helps tackle climate change.
Looking ahead, I’m working on the next step of extending the line as far as Shankill and Bray. Bride’s Glen is the last stop on the line, and Loughlinstown Hospital lies just across the old stone rail viaduct that spans the Shanganagh River that runs through the glen after which the stop is named. The alignment of the old Harcourt Street Railway line is still there, and although one or two buildings were allowed to straddle the line it would be comparatively easy to acquire the lands and put the line back in place. Ideally the Metro Project would eventually run between Swords and Bray, creating a backbone along which the city could develop over the next hundred years. I finished up my few words at the opening by quoting from Daniel Burnham –the American planner who produced the Chicago Plan in the nineteenth century. He stated:
“Make no little plans, they have no courage to stir men’s blood and probably will not be realised. Aim high in life and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram, once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.
Remember that our sons and grandsons will do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty, think big.”
If you remove Burham’s gender bias, I think you’ve a decent enough quote that can guide the proposals for the Metro and the Dart Interconnector . In tandem with the right planning and development decisions they have the capacity to change the face of Dublin for the better over the next hundred years.