LUAS - Look Back in Horror
Date: 22 September, 2003
From: Derek Wheeler, PRO, Platform11
Issued by: Platform11 Press Office
LUAS: The Facts
Essentially what should have been a straightforward, light rail transport project for a mid-sized European city has turned into one of the most remarkable and bizarre episodes in the history of public transport planning, political interference and incompetence in European railway history. Quite simply in plain language, the Railway Procurement Agency, an organisation that is essentially a fostered grandchild of CIE, is not up to the job and should be removed from the LUAS project immediately. CIE in any name, shape of form, is pathologically incapable of delivering public transport in Ireland that works for the society and economy of Ireland while delivering value to the Irish taxpayer. This coupled with the on-going reality that Irish politicians cannot view rail transport in this country as anything other than a political football has led to this mess.
The Big Questions
Why did the RPA build two unconnected lines at once? Why did they start out in the suburbs and progress the construction towards the city centre at the same time when they could have completed the Sandyford-Stephens Green line initially, and then tackled the Tallaght line? This was entirely due to interference from Mary O'Rourke (then Minister for Public Enterprise), in the face of opposition from the then Light Rail Project Office (LRPO).
The Results of these Decisions
This then led to massive cost over-runs as a result of:
Having to build two separate depots (originally only one was planned at Red Cow) and duplicate facilities
Then having to additionally upgrade the Sandyford line to Metro standard (as requested to by the department at the last minute after originally turning down this suggestion from the LRPO) .
The extension from Balally to Sandyford was turned down by politicians originally and then they did a volte-face.
All of these factors have led to outrageous cost over-runs which could have been avoided if the politicians had not interfered in the way that they have. The requirement to build both lines simultaneously also came from government and not the RPA.
A Better Way
The Sandyford line is essentially a "no brainer". The route follows the course of the old Harcourt Street route closed by CIE in 1959. Basically, all that was required was to lay the tracks and build the stations on the intact railway route. The Sandyford-Stephens Green line could have been completed and finished in a relatively short time, and Dubliners would already be enjoying the benefits of light rail transport. The Tallaght line could have been then tackled, and the experience and knowledge acquired in building the first line could have been used during the construction of the Tallaght, to avoid the Red Cow insanity. Instead of employing two separate working crews for the two projects, one could have been used on each LUAS line consecutively.
This is how it is done everywhere else in the world. But as Platform11 has been highlighting since our inception, proven international rail transport methodology has never been understood by CIE, even when some of their offspring break away and rename themselves the â€œRailway Procurement Agencyâ€. The RPA has inherited CIEâ€™s incompetence. All that happened was some of the same old clowns started a new circus and Irish taxpayers are paying an appalling price.
On top of this the whole project has been blighted by political interference from the start. The Red Cow situation is a shining example of this. In what other country would a national transport minister be getting involved in detailed suggestions concerning â€œstiltsâ€? Why did these discussions not take place at the public enquiry? The answer is that the politicians refused funding for anything more than the situation that pertained at initial design stage. To have central government involved to the degree that they have been in interfering with the work of a light rail transport project is nothing short of farcical and uniquely Irish.
All over the world light rail is successful and serves cities and commuters well. Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the RPAâ€™s surreal management of the LUAS project and the politicians meddling is that they may have killed light rail transport in Ireland forever. Sadly, the incompetent RPA have made â€œLight Railâ€ a dirty word in Ireland, and considering the assault of the Irish taxpayers by the CIE-schooled managers of the LUAS project, one can hardly blame them.
Many Dublin schoolchildren grew up singing the street rhyme â€œCIE are Robberyâ€ but it took the CIE managers putting on a different clown uniforms and setting up a new circus called the Rail Procurement Agency, to really make that childrenâ€™s song a tragic prophecy. The Politicians at the same time have decided that Todd Andrews is still the mentor of choice when it comes to rail transport policy on this island and that his disastrous legacy and failure to understand precisely what railways are, and why the Irish economy/society needs them, continues to this day. Platform11 along with the tax payers of this country have had enough â€“ we need rail transport that works for Ireland. Irish people have travelled to the continent and witnessed first hand how rail transport works and why it is important to a nation and its economy.
Integrated transport is quite achievable. Dublin must have this it order to increase competitiveness and to improve the quality of live of its citizens.