for 'speed'), also promoted in the development stage as the Dublin Light Rail System
, is a light rail
system serving Dublin
, the first such system in the decades since the closure of the last of the Dublin tramways
There are currently two Luas lines. The Green line commenced operations on 30 June 2004, while the Red Line opened on 26 September 2004. It is one of 450 light rail systems operating in cities around the world. As of 2008, the system has 36 stations and 25 km (15 mi) of track.
The Luas is operated by Veolia Transport, under tender from the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA). It is a major part of the Dublin Transportation Office's strategy (2000-2016). There are currently two extensions to the existing lines under construction, while several more extensions as well as new lines are at the planning stage.
The idea for a new tram or light rail system for the city of Dublin was first suggested in 1994, by a Dublin Transportation Initiative (DTI) report, which referenced the original Dublin tramways
, once running over 60km and reaching most parts of the city. Following this report Córas Iompair Éireann
(CIÉ), the state-owned public transport operator in Ireland, was asked to study the different options. They recommended two phases for the construction of a light rail system:
- Phase 1: Tallaght to Dundrum/Balally via the City Centre
- Phase 2: Ballymun to the City Centre and Dundrum/Balally to Sandyford
The Transport Act, 1996 created a legal framework for CIÉ to build a light rail system and in May 1997 the company applied for a Light Railway Order to construct the first phase, as well as the Dundrum/Balally to Sandyford part of phase 2.
An inquiry started in July 1997, but was put on hold to investigate the possibility of underground sections in the city centre. In May 1998 the government decided to build two lines, amending the plans. The first was to run from Tallaght to Connolly Station, while the second would run from Sandyford Industrial Estate to Dublin Airport, through the city centre and Ballymun. Part of the second was to be underground through the city centre.
The responsibility for developing the Luas was transferred from CIÉ to the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA), a separate government agency created in 2001.
Construction work began in March 2001 on the Tallaght to Connolly line, as well as the Sandyford to St. Stephen's Green section of the second line, with Ansaldo of Italy and MVM of Australia getting the contract to build the system. The St. Stephen's Green to Dublin Airport section was dropped before construction began, as it was decided to serve the area by a metro instead. The contract to maintain operate the system was awarded to Veolia Transport Ireland (formerly known as Connex)..
The development of the Luas Red Line was facilitated by EU funding of €82.5 million under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and part of the cost of some proposed line extensions (e.g. over 50% of Line B1 to Cherrywood) is being raised though levies on development in areas close to the projected route.
The original launch date for the Luas was to be 2003, but delays in construction saw this date pushed back by a year. An advertising campaign took place to inform the public of the development of the system, while construction was taking place. Construction finished in February 2004 and a period of testing and driver training began. 30 June 2004 was decided on as the official launch date of the Green Line. The first tram went into service for the general public at 3pm. Several days of free ridership and a family fun weekend took place to launch the system. The Red Line opened on 26 September 2004, with six days of free travel for the general public.
2004 to present
As of November 2006, over 50 million journeys have been made on the system. Around 80,000 Luas trips are made each day (total 28.4 million in 2007). To date, the busiest day on the Luas system was Friday December 21st 2007 when 145,000 passenger journeys were recorded..
Luas operates without a State subvention. The service recorded a surplus of €985,000 (€680,000 in 2004) - an achievement well ahead of an anticipated deficit of €2.5 million..
Stations and Lines
The network currently comprises two routes:
- Red Line: Connolly Station to central Tallaght, 15 km
- Green Line: St. Stephen's Green to Sandyford, 10 km
The Red Line runs in an east-west direction through Dublin's Northside, then crosses the river Liffey and travels south-west to the town of Tallaght.
The Green Line is entirely in the south side of Dublin city. Apart from the city-centre section, where it runs down Harcourt Street to St. Stephen's Green, it follows the route of the old Harcourt Street railway line, which was reserved for possible re-use when it closed in 1958. The Red Line and Green Line are not connected to each other, with a 15 minute walk between the two closest points. There are a total of 23 stops on the Red Line and 13 on the Green Line.
Track and Rolling Stock
The system operates on a 750 V DC overhead power supply. The international standard rail gauge of 1435mm (4ft 8½in) is used, rather than the Irish 1600mm (5 ft 3 in).
The silver Citadis trams, manufactured in La Rochelle by Alstom, reach a top speed of 70 km/h on off-street sections, but travel at a slower speed on-street where conflicts with other vehicles or pedestrians can occur. The 26 initial Red Line trams were 30 m long Citadis 301 configurations with a capacity of 256. The 14 Green Line trams, each 40 m Citadis 401 configurations, have a capacity of 358 including two wheelchairs. In 2007, seventeen Red line tramsets were upgraded to 40 m by inserting two more articulated sections, and the remaining nine tramsets are scheduled to be upgraded by June 2008. Both configurations of tramcars are fully compatible with both the Red and the Green Lines.
In other aspects, the two lines are identical except that the interaxis width between the tracks on the Green Line is slightly wider than on the Red Line. Note that this does not relate to the track gauge of 1435 mm, which is identical on both lines. This will allow wider metro trains be run on the same tracks if a proposed upgrade to full metro service is implemented. This is possible because the route uses an old railway line and as such has few interactions with vehicular or pedestrian traffic. The Red Line was constructed largely on or beside public roads and is not suited to wider and faster metro trains. The Railway Procurement Agency has stated (November 2006) that "We still envisage conversion of almost all Luas lines to light metro standard in the long-term."
The main engineering structures on the Green Line at present are Milltown Viaduct, also known as The Nine Arches, a large stone viaduct dating from 1854, and the William Dargan Bridge, a large new cable-stayed suspension bridge at Taney Cross, near Dundrum town centre.
Travel on the Luas
Luas tickets are purple in colour and credit-card sized. They bear a magnetic stripe on the back although this is not used on Luas itself. Uniquely among Dublin's public transport, tickets are not checked upon boarding trams and an honour system, combined with random inspections, is used.
Ticket machines operate at every Luas stop and these are the only source of single-journey and return tickets. They also sell 1-day, 7-day and 30-day tickets, valid in either some or all the fare zones, for adults, children and students. It is also possible to purchase tickets valid on Luas and Dublin Bus. There is also a ticket valid on Luas plus Irish Rail commuter and DART services as far as Balbriggan and Maynooth. This is only available from Irish Rail ticket offices, not machines, and cost €8.60 as of May 2008. Certain ticket combinations are not possible (for example a one-day student ticket), and tickets can only be valid from the stop at which they are purchased and must commence their validity immediately. Certain tickets require the user to hold an ID card and write the number on the ticket, to prevent the ticket from being transferred to another person. Beginning from 21st of April 2008, ticket machines do not accept credit card payments for transactions exceeding €50, until Chip and pin technology is introduced.
Luas tickets are sold at local shops, mostly in the vicinity of Luas stops. Certain tickets are slightly cheaper in shops than at ticket machines. Dublin Bus and Luas tickets can also be purchased from shops, although these must be used on a bus before they are valid for use on a Luas.
The red line is divided into four zones, and the green line into three zones. Fares are calculated based on how many zones a journey is taken through. There is a stop on the border of each zone, which is considered to be in whichever zone is more beneficial to the traveller. The central zone is common to both lines. The two lines do not connect, but it is possible to purchase tickets which are valid for a journey using both lines. It is necessary to walk or take other transport between the two lines, most commonly between St. Stephen's Green (on the green line) and Abbey Street (on the red line). Alternatives include buses (the number 92 links St. Stephen's Green to Heuston and the number 18 links Ranelagh to Kylemore, although these are not included on the ticket) and taxis.
In March 2005 the Luas smartcard was launched. This allows travellers to pay for travel on the Luas network. Credit is pre-loaded onto the smartcard at ticket machines by cash, debit card or credit card, with a minimum top-up of €5 and a maximum credit on the card of €100, and the customer must validate the card using readers on the platform before boarding the tram and then again after exiting the tram. This is referred to as 'tag-on' and 'tag-off'.
A smartcard can be purchased at a Luas ticket agent or online. The card costs €10, which includes a €3 non-refundable charge for the card, €3 of credit and €4 for a fully refundable 'reserve fund' which allows travel even if there is insufficient credit on the card for the journey. However, the card must then be topped up before another journey can be taken.
Smartcard fares are slightly cheaper than standard single and return fares from ticket machines. For example, a journey within a single zone costs €1.25 with the card, compared to €1.50 (€1.60 during peak time) single with a paper ticket, or €2.80 return. However, daily, 7-day and 30-day tickets generally work out cheaper, unless used only rarely. Unlike London's Oyster card, Luas smartcards are unable to store multiple-journey tickets and these tickets are issued on paper only.
The Smartcard project is part of the Railway Procurement Agency's integrated ticketing system, which, when completed, should allow travellers to use the one card to pay for travel on all public transport in Ireland.
Hours of operation and frequency
Trams operate from 05:30 to 00:30 Monday to Friday. On Saturday the Green Line begins operating at 06:15, while the Red Line begins at 06:30. Both lines close at 00:30 on Saturday nights. On Sundays the Green Line runs from 06:45 to 23:30, while the Red Line runs from 07:00 to 23:30. Bank holidays are the same as Sundays, except trams run until 00:30. Services run at regular intervals, from every 4-5 minutes during peak times to every 15 minutes late at night.
The low floors and wide spaces of the Citadis trams mean that wheelchair users can easily board. All stations have also been designed with ramps, to allow easy access. Several have lifts, such as Kilmacud on the Green Line, while Connolly Station has escalators which connect the Luas station to the main station building. The Luas website also has an accessibility newsletter.
Before the Luas was launched a Safety Awareness Day was held in Dublin City Centre. Also thousands of reflective armbands were distributed to pedestrians and cyclists, in order to ensure their visibility for tram drivers. This policy seems to have worked as the Luas has been described as being "one of the safest transport systems in the world. Both trams and stops are monitored using CCTV 24 hours a day from the central control room is located in the Red Cow Depot. The first fatality following an accident on the Luas was in February 2008, after a man was struck by a tram in Tallaght. Apart from this there have been many occurrences of cars striking trams, mainly caused by motorists breaking red lights.
The cost of building the Red and Green Lines was €770m. This was vastly over original predictions that the system would cost €254m.
It was envisaged in the original plans that the Green Line would intersect the Red Line at O'Connell Street. However this did not happen and two separate, unconnected lines were built. This means that there is a 15 minute walk - through the typically crowded O'Connell St, Westmoreland St, College Green and Grafton St - between the two lines which has caused much criticism over the years. Plans to rectify this were announced with the building of the BX Line under Transport 21.
High park and ride charges have also attracted much criticism. The cost of parking for a full day is €4. It was described by Eoin Ryan TD as "unacceptable for Luas to charge passengers for parking at their Park and Ride facilities on top of ticket fares.
There are currently plans for several new Luas lines, as well as extensions to the two existing lines. In the original plans, Line B was the original name for the Green Line, and the Red Line route comprised Line A from Tallaght to Abbey Street and Line C from Abbey Street to Connolly Station. This terminology is still used for forward planning (e.g. on the Red Line route proposal A1 extends the original Line A and proposal C1 extends the original Line C).
The Transport 21 plan covering the period 2005-2015 announced by the Minister for Transport on 1 November 2005 provides funding for seven Luas projects.
- Line C1 – Connolly to Docklands extension (Red Line) - The Report of Public Inquiry recommended that this 1.7km extension proceed subject to certain conditions concerning effective risk management to avoid potential services disruption. There will be 4 stops: George's Dock, Mayor Square, Spencer Dock (serving the new Docklands railway station, approximately 500m away) and terminating at the Point Depot. Construction started at the beginning of June 2007. According to the RPA, the extension will open at the end of 2009.
- Line B1 – Sandyford to Cherrywood extension (Green Line). This extension of the Green Line will be 7.2km long. Construction commenced on 26 February 2007. The planned route leaves the old railway alignment after Sandyford to Central Park stop, crosses the M50 and runs down Ballyogan Rd. with stops at Glencairn, The Gallops, Leopardstown Valley and Ballyogan Wood. It then crosses the M50 again, re-joining the alignment at the Leopardstown Racecourse stop, west of Glenamuck Rd. Continuing along the original alignment it passes by the original Carrickmines station to Carrickmines stop and Brennanstown stop. The Carrickmines stop will incorporate Park and Ride facilities; both it and Brennanstown will be accessed by new roads from the M50 side, not from the Brennanstown Rd. side. Beyond Brennanstown the route crosses open countryside, diverging slightly from, but paralleling the old alignment to Laughanstown stop, Cherrywood stop and ending at Bride’s Glen stop, adjacent to Dell. The extension is due to open in 2010.
Planned under Transport 21
- Line A1 – Tallaght to Saggart link. This will be a extension, funded by a Public Private Partnership with property developers. Originally intended to be a spur off the existing Red Line to Fortunestown, it was later decided to bring the line to Saggart. Construction has not yet started, but is likely to start in 2008. Under the plans in Transport 21 the completion date is 2010.
- Line D – City Centre to Liffey Junction. This will serve Grangegorman, the site of the new DIT campus. This line will link with the Maynooth line. Construction has not yet started. The completion date is 2012.
- Line BX – City Centre link for Red and Green Lines. The RPA started public consultation on the route in December 2005. In March 2007 the preferred route was announced. This will see run from St. Stephens Green to College Green where the line changes from a double track to single track. From here it runs north through Westmoreland St., over O’Connell Bridge and along the west side of O’Connell St. to Cathal Brugha St. It then turns east into Cathal Brugha St. and turns south to run along Marlborough St., across the River Liffey on a new bridge, continues along Hawkins St. and College St. and joins up with the double track section of the line at College Green. Construction has not yet started. 2012 is the completion date given in the Transport 21 plans.
- Line F – City Centre to Lucan. On 27 September 2007, Noel Dempsey (Minister for Transport) launched the public consultation process for the planned Luas line to Lucan. Two main route options have been identified, with a number of sub-options also identified. It is expected that it will link with Metro West. Construction has not yet started. 2013 is the completion date given in the Transport 21 plan.
- Line B2 – Cherrywood to Bray environs extension (Green Line). This is an extension of . On 6 June 2007, the route of this Luas extension was announced. It will run from Cherrywood to Fassaroe and Bray (adjacent the Dart station), and will run very close to the M11 motorway, eventually crossing it near the Wilford interchange. Construction has not yet started. It is predicted to open in 2015.
In May 2008, the feasibility study for a possible Luas line E, to run from Dundrum to the City Centre via Rathfarnham, Terenure and Harold's Cross, was completed. It has been submitted to the Minister for Transport and awaits confirmation.
With the success of the Luas system in Dublin, there is very strong support for bringing light rail to other Irish cities. During the 2007 election campaign Fianna Fáil and the Green Party both announced plans for light rail systems in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford . The 2007 Programme for Government between these two parties and the Progressive Democrats included a section which ensured feasibility studies would be carried out on these projects within the first two years of the government.
GLuas (Luas for Galway)
A GLUAS working group, consisting of members of An Taisce, Galway Chamber of Commerce, the Galway City Business Association, and the Galway branch of the Green Party, has been planning a Luas system for Galway since 2007. Their plan envisages two lines serving Galway city from east to west, and from north to south.
The Luas became the subject of a spoof rap song in 2007 entitled "The Luas Rap". The accompanying music video directed by Liam Geraghty as well as the raps creators Dr. Stu and Keith O'Neill became a hit on social networking site Bebo which led to clips of it being broadcast on RTÉ's The Podge and Rodge Show.
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