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Unified Proposal, the Circle line and the Luas

  • 24-08-2012 7:24pm
    #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    After years of delays, debate, misinformation and hostility from various quarters, the Green and Red Luas lines were brought into operation in 2004. The change in government in 1997 had lead to a year of "studies" and reports, the conclusions of which were binned for what became two separate lines.

    In December 1998, the late Judge Sean O'Leary presented his findings to the Government that the construction of what was then called Luas Line A, from Tallaght to Abbey Street should go ahead subject to minor conditions. Part of his brief was to consider alternatives to CIÉ's application, and his judgement on the two alternatives presented, both of which had received a lot of exposure in a press hostile to the Luas project and opportunistic support from some politicians, was damning.
    Without prejudice to the foregoing, the suggestions put forward by the Unified Proposal or the Circle proposal supported by the Lucan/Clondalkin organisation bear no relationship in detail or otherwise to the application under consideration. In both the Unified Proposal and in the Circle rail option the map produced in each case to support the proposal is in no way comparable to the route options details produced for the current application. Neither of these proposals is anything other than an idea which its promoters think is good but on which no detailed work of any kind has been carried out..Neither..have progressed beyond the very first blueprint stage and cannot be compared to the application which it is the Inquiry's duty to consider.

    So, given that these alternative proposals contributed to the four year delay to the Luas project and left it with two separate lines, what was the reasoning behind them?


Comments

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    Here's another bit to ponder. The Indo was pretty cynical about the Luas project and here's an opinion piece from 2003 which straightforwardly stated that it would have preferred a bus based transport system instead of Luas. What interests me about this unsigned article is who spinned it? What PR bunny inspired it, as I am pretty sure that no Indo journalist would know one end of a bus or tram from another? Who benefitted?

    I have quoted the article in full in case it disappears off the Indo. Given the sheer numbers moved yesterday for both the Tall Ships and the All-Ireland Semi Final I don't think anyone would question the benefits of Luas now unless they were, for example, a private bus company.

    Tuesday September 23 2003



    It's a bit like the old joke about asking directions at a crossroads in the back of Connemara and the old man sitting on the wall says: "You want to go to Clifden? - ah well, you wouldn't want to start from here at all."Asked about the Luas a week ago, Transport Minister Seamus Brennan said: "If we were starting with a clean sheet of paper, knowing today's figures, you would probably opt for a complete city-wide metro, and you would probably do 100pc of it underground." In other words, you wouldn't want to start from - or end up at - where we are now.
    This painfully honest admission by the Minister that the Luas project is a mess and probably a huge mistake provoked a predictably furious political reaction. But the fact is that almost all our politicians must bear some of the blame. And Mr Brennan, at least, is new to it all - one can understand why he is unwilling to carry the can alone.
    To those of us who have been aware of the lunacy of Luas from the very beginning, it has been fascinating in recent months to see how it's become acceptable in politically correct circles to be sceptical about Luas or even to be anti-Luas altogether.
    Everyone is a Luas sceptic these days - even those media gurus who were zealous supporters of Luas in the beginning can now be heard regaling each other with the latest Luas horror stories. But there was a time - and it's not so very long ago - when anyone who dared to suggest that the Luas might be a bad idea was regarded as a Luddite, an environmental vandal, an anti-public transport capitalist pig or even, the biggest insult of all, a part of the car lobby.
    There was a consensus in the loftier reaches of the media at the time that the Luas was good for the city and any opposition had to be firmly stamped out. This politically correct cabal - and they and their high priest know who they are - dismissed any opposition to the Luas as selfish and blinkered. Now they are clambering back on the fence and loudly asking the questions they should have got answers to years ago.
    Those of us who were against the Luas at the start were ridiculed as promoters of the car, driving in from our fancy houses in Foxrock everyday, jamming the streets with our polluting automobiles at rush hour and turning the city centre into a giant car park throughout the day. We were accused of being against public transport and for the building of motorways gouged through the old city streets. We would have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, out of our cars and onto the shiny new trams.
    Of course, this kind of ridicule was one way of avoiding the serious questions that were obvious even then about Luas. But no matter how cogent the anti-Luas arguments made at the time were, anyone who opposed Luas in the beginning was dismissed as a crank. Even Garret FitzGerald, who pointed out the problems with great clarity right from the start, was patronised as some kind of dotty professor who wore odd socks and read airline timetables for amusement. Sure it's only Garret being Garret, they said.
    Yet the concerns raised by FitzGerald and others were genuine, like how the Luas was to get around corners and across junctions in the city centre without creating chaos. And, more fundamentally, whether it was worth going to such enormous trouble and expense for a very limited return in terms of the relatively small number of people that the Luas would carry.
    So why were the obvious questions not answered at the time? Simple, really. Back then anything with a polluting combustion engine in it was bad. And anything with a non-polluting electric motor in it was good. So Luas was good and cars, and even buses, were bad. (Except now we know that generating all the electricity has consequences - hence the talk about carbon taxes).
    Concerns about the cost of the Luas were raised right from the start. The original estimate of between £200m and £300m was always going to be unreliable because of the necessity to move all the underground services - like water, gas, electricity, phones etc - out from under the trackway. No one really knew what that would involve until digging started.
    This was glossed over by the pro-Luas lobby at the time. Subsequently it turned into a huge and costly undertaking, with streets being excavated to a great depth, sometimes for months on end. (It turned out to be almost as expensive as tunnelling but, in spite of this, the pro-Luas lobby would not consider the idea of putting the Luas underground in the city centre - it began to seem that causing grief to motorists was part of their strategy.)
    But an even bigger concern at the start was the number of passengers that would be carried - again it was clear at an early stage that the capacity of the two Luas lines was going to be around 7,000 people an hour each. The best estimate was that this would take a few thousand cars off the roads as many of the Luas passengers would be former bus users. At the time it hardly seemed worth the bother. The best estimates even now are that Luas will reduce the number of cars coming into the city each day by around 2pc.
    And that is the real tragedy of the situation we are now in - after all the disruption and the chaos and the months of dirt, noise and smells, the effect on Dublin's traffic will be minimal. In fact, instead of making the traffic any better, there is every chance that the Luas will actually make it worse, given what the trams will do to the rest of the road users in the city.
    And the really sad part of this, the truly maddening part of it all, is that there was an alternative to Luas that would have solved Dublin's entire traffic problem for a fraction of the cost of just two Luas lines.
    Right from the beginning, this section of the Irish Independent made the point repeatedly that the solution to our traffic problem lay, not in the ludicrously expensive and inefficient Luas, but in the Quality Bus Corridor system.
    No digging up streets, no moving services, no years of chaos and misery - just a wide line painted down the main routes into the city and bus-friendly traffic lights. And a special traffic corps to police the corridors with draconian measures to stop motorists encroaching.
    For less than half the ?750m or ?800m that the two inadequate Luas lines are going to cost us, we could have installed a complete system of QBCs on ALL the main routes into Dublin and bought a huge fleet of new buses.
    The capacity of the Luas from Tallaght will be 6,800 passengers an hour and that of the Luas from Sandyford will be 7,100 an hour, which is only a fraction of the 140,000 people carried into the city every morning on the present handful of QBCs during the rush hour period. A good example of what can be achieved is the Stillorgan QBC, launched in 1999 amid predictions it would worsen congestion. Today it is regarded as a triumph of traffic management. The Stillorgan QBC carries nearly 50,000 rush hour commuters, with buses departing every two minutes.
    The success of the QBCs, in spite of the traffic congestion which engulfs them as they get into the city, has proved that bus corridors, rather than light rail, are the real solution to Dublin's nightmare congestion. Plus they are so much easier and cheaper to introduce - QBCs cost around ?500,000 per kilometre to lay, much of it going on modifying junctions and traffic lights. The comparison with the hundreds of millions being poured into Luas - not to mention the chaotic disruption to traffic during construction - could not be starker.
    In general, the number of people carried on a QBC is roughly the same as the number which will be carried on each of the Luas routes - but at a fraction of the cost. It would have been possible to introduce an entire network of QBCs feeding in from all around the city for less than half the cost of the two Luas lines.
    Dublin Bus wants to introduce nine new QBCs and upgrade its existing ones. It has plans for SuperBusways across the city centre, crossing the city north-south and east-west, into which the QBCs would feed and which would have absolute priority and traffic light sequencing.
    Again all of this could have been done for peanuts in comparison with the cost of the new Luas lines, serving just two routes. Luas lines, of course, which don't interconnect, one of which stops short of the city centre and the other of which runs through four kilometres of empty space while bypassing populated areas. And don't mention anything about Mad Cows and different gauges.
    Now, as this disaster unfolds in the city centre, what is even more irritating than the sight of the huge holes being torn in the city's streets? It is the spectacle of the pro-Luas brigade adopting a critical and questioning position. Now, when it's too late, they are asking the kind of questions they would not listen to at the start.
    Seamus Brennan is right. The reality we all have to face now is that we are much too far gone with Luas to stop at this stage. But, given a second chance, there is no way we would do it again. Now, for good or ill, the rest of the city's transport solutions will have to work around Luas.
    No doubt the Luas will be a pleasure for those who live near the two lines. But, for everyone else, a full system of QBCs from all the suburbs and the two SuperBusways across the city centre are likely to be the real answer.

    Another thing, was Garret paid by anyone for his "consultancy"?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    It is remarkable how transport projects disappear. Now you see them, now you don't. Where did this fit in with Metro North? Work had already started on the Red and Green Luas lines at this stage.

    From the Sunday Tribune of 2nd April 2000, by Shane Coleman:
    JAPANESE FIRM TO PRESENT PLANS FOR CONSTRUCTION OF DUBLIN LIGHT RAIL

    The Japanese consortium, which offered to design, build, finance, operate and run an underground light rail system for Dublin, has been asked to make a detailed presentation of its plans to the crucial meeting of the cabinet subcommittee on infrastructure scheduled for 11 April.

    The invitation to the consortium Unified Proposal, Mitsui, Nishimatu is further evidence that the cabinet subcommittee is looking beyond Luas to provide a solution to Dublin's transport crisis.

    It is understood that the Japanese group, which has just finished building the Docklands Light Rail in London, has drawn up plans for a [IR]£500m line between Sandyford, in south Dublin, and the airport. This would involve an underground section for the city centre between Ranelagh and Broadstone, north of the Liffey, and further possible underground sections along the northern half of the route.

    The group is offering to take all the risk and cost of building the line, in return for a 25-year concession to operate the route. It is understood that the proposal involves heavier metro-style trains equivalent to the Dart than proposed under the Luas system.

    It is known that the Tanaiste Mary Harney is particularly keen on bringing in private investment for public transport projects, while the prospect of the private sector bearing all the cost for such a hugely expensive project would no doubt appeal to finance minister Charlie McCreevy. It is known that McCreevy is sceptical about the merits of spending up to IR£1 billion on a Luas system that many experts argue will not significantly improve Dublin's traffic problems and could cause chaos while being built.

    While it is expected that the Luas line to Tallaght will be built, despite reports of escalating costs on the route, there is a growing feeling that the government will decide to jettison the remainder of the controversial light rail project in favour of a more radical solution.

    It is already known that the cabinet subcommittee on infrastructure, made up of McCreevy, Harney, Mary O'Rourke, Noel Dempsey and the Taoiseach, will consider two other plans: a radical IR£4 billion proposal from the Dublin Transportation Office to build a heavy rail metro system and a IR£2 billion study commissioned by CIE from consultants Ove Arup.

    The DTO plan is designed to meet Dublin's needs for the year 2020 and is thought to involve an underground circle line covering the centre of Dublin and heavy links to Sandyford, the airport and Greater Blanchardstown, which would allow for greater passenger numbers


  • Registered Users Posts: 20,511 ✭✭✭✭ FreudianSlippers


    It is remarkable how transport projects disappear. Now you see them, now you don't. Where did this fit in with Metro North? Work had already started on the Red and Green Luas lines at this stage.

    From the Sunday Tribune of 2nd April 2000, by Shane Coleman:
    :eek: should have definitely gone with that! :D


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    :eek: should have definitely gone with that! :D

    Yes, it is interesting. They had gone from being dismissed two years earlier at the Line A public enquiry to having an article in the Trib claiming that they were pushing at an open door two years later, when in reality they got nowhere.

    There's an interesting book in the whole vexed question of planning and implementing infrastructure in this country, I sometimes wonder will it have to be published outside the jurisdiction ;)


  • Registered Users Posts: 426 ✭✭ Jack Noble


    Yes, it is interesting. They had gone from being dismissed two years earlier at the Line A public enquiry to having an article in the Trib claiming that they were pushing at an open door two years later, when in reality they got nowhere.

    There's an interesting book in the whole vexed question of planning and implementing infrastructure in this country, I sometimes wonder will it have to be published outside the jurisdiction ;)

    The man behind the Unified Proposal was engineer Cormac Rabbitt.

    He's still pushing a version of the scheme under the name Dargan Project as an alternative to Metro North and Dart Underground.

    http://www.darganproject.com/

    He's a very interesting chap - many of the ideas that he advocated 20 years ago and which were rejected and sneered at by some have become mainstream thinking today.

    He was also behind the scheme back in the early 2000s for a Dublin Metro built and financed by a Japanese consortium. Word at the time was McCreevy and Harney favoured this while then transport ministers O'Rourke and later Brennan, backed by civil service mandarins and CIE, opposed it while Bertie Ahern dithered before eventually siding with O'Rourke/Brennan/CS/CIE and rejected it. The actual reasons it was rejected are probably a tad more complex than that.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    Jack Noble wrote: »
    The man behind the Unified Proposal was engineer Cormac Rabbitt.

    He's still pushing a version of the scheme under the name Dargan Project as an alternative to Metro North and Dart Underground.

    http://www.darganproject.com/

    He's a very interesting chap - many of the ideas that he advocated 20 years ago and which were rejected and sneered at by some have become mainstream thinking today.

    He was also behind the scheme back in the early 2000s for a Dublin Metro built and financed by a Japanese consortium. Word at the time was McCreevy and Harney favoured this while then transport ministers O'Rourke and later Brennan, backed by civil service mandarins and CIE, opposed it while Bertie Ahern dithered before eventually siding with O'Rourke/Brennan/CS/CIE and rejected it. The actual reasons it was rejected are probably a tad more complex than that.

    Possibly one of the reasons was the price tag? Seemed a tad low. Also, what the hell is it with the music on the Dargan website?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    I've just had a quick look at the Dargan website and there is some remarkable stuff.

    One thing that caught my eye is their allegation that using a Greathead shield to tunnel stations is dangerous :eek: and that the underground stations should be built mainly by cut and cover.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,278 ✭✭✭ dowlingm


    I've just had a quick look at the Dargan website and there is some remarkable stuff.

    One thing that caught my eye is their allegation that using a Greathead shield to tunnel stations is dangerous :eek: and that the underground stations should be built mainly by cut and cover.
    Manuel Melis (Madrid Metro) told the Oireachtas committee on transport the same thing in 2003 - don't build stations underground, it's dangerous, cut and cover them. (http://debates.oireachtas.ie/TRJ/2003/06/19/00003.asp)


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    dowlingm wrote: »
    Manuel Melis (Madrid Metro) told the Oireachtas committee on transport the same thing in 2003 - don't build stations underground, it's dangerous, cut and cover them. (http://debates.oireachtas.ie/TRJ/2003/06/19/00003.asp)

    Funny how the London Underground for over a century was able to excavate its platforms with Greathead shields, picks and shovels and latterly TBMs without incident. Concourses would be created by cut and cover. Think T5 Heathrow was the single example of a problem, which now becomes an allegedly unacceptable risk.

    Sounds more like an excuse to throw a spanner in the works of DART Underground to me, but YMMV.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,235 ✭✭✭ D.L.R.


    The problem for Dublin in creating a unified transport plan is the need to lobby culchie TDs and the need to go to the national level in general, and the inevitable resistance to "Dublin gettin all de munny".

    Sometimes I wonder whether Dublin might not be better off as a federal state, or even independent.

    I do think though that FF didn't have value for money in mind when they were in power, and all their plans should be redrawn from pretty much scratch.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    Niamh Connolly in the Business Post loved having a go at the Luas project. The fact that they were based in Harcourt Street might well have been a factor.

    I particularly enjoy her little uncited remark that unnamed people may have thought having trams was "quaint".

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/978178/posts


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    Another mischevious little article, expecting passenger levels to be 45 per cent of those predicted:


    http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=167389


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    The silliest article of all in the Business Post, not by Niamh Connolly this time, just before the opening of the Green line.

    http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?p=1728000


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators Posts: 13,991 Mod ✭✭✭✭ monument


    Where there was a fair bit of over the top reporting on Luas, it had its problems too.

    There were internal problems with the RPA, deadlines missed and the Red Cow was proven to to a bit of a mistake. Harcourt Street was also a mess, even if it was a mess waiting to happen even with no construction - it was no handled well.

    As the article says:

    "In places like Harcourt Street they appear to have organised the construction work to cause the maximum disruption for the longest possible time, thus ensuring that local businesses and passers-by lose all faith in the system before it is even built," said Professor James Wickham, an expert in urban transport at Trinity College Dublin.

    If you try calling Wicham anti-rail, I'll laugh.

    Re other article about how open the system and the likely losses because of that: I'm a firm supporter of having barrierless Luas, but also Metro and Dart. But very few people are. Cities survive without barriers on metros, but most Irish people are used to London, New York and Paris. LA used to be barrierless but I read recently that while their former head of Metro (transport authority) pleaded -- even after he left his job -- that the system be kept open, those pushing barriers won on the basses of everything from fare collection to terrorism protection.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 367 ✭✭ The Idyll Race


    monument wrote: »
    Where there was a fair bit of over the top reporting on Luas, it had its problems too.

    There were internal problems with the RPA, deadlines missed and the Red Cow was proven to to a bit of a mistake. Harcourt Street was also a mess, even if it was a mess waiting to happen even with no construction - it was no handled well.

    As the article says:

    "In places like Harcourt Street they appear to have organised the construction work to cause the maximum disruption for the longest possible time, thus ensuring that local businesses and passers-by lose all faith in the system before it is even built," said Professor James Wickham, an expert in urban transport at Trinity College Dublin.

    If you try calling Wicham anti-rail, I'll laugh.

    Re other article about how open the system and the likely losses because of that: I'm a firm supporter of having barrierless Luas, but also Metro and Dart. But very few people are. Cities survive without barriers on metros, but most Irish people are used to London, New York and Paris. LA used to be barrierless but I read recently that while their former head of Metro (transport authority) pleaded -- even after he left his job -- that the system be kept open, those pushing barriers won on the basses of everything from fare collection to terrorism protection.

    I do agree with you regarding Harcourt Street, and I do think Wickham was right. I worked for a construction company based in Ranelagh during that time and one of the guys was a structural engineer. He pointed out to me the amount of concrete and mesh poured into the Harcourt Street works would probably support the Dublin - Cork train and he was firmly of the opinion that much of the Luas works were over-engineered, even taking into account that the Green line was supposed to be converted to "metro" operation at some point.

    Perhaps they had to buy a certain amount of concrete in!


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