By Kevin Baker on Thu, Jul 19, 2018
At the Oireachtas Transport committee meeting on July 18th, MetroLink was compared to building a "Berlin Wall" through the south city, by a group of concerned residents. The 'Berlin Wall' analogy is over the top. Bisecting the communities in the south city is a risk of MetroLink. However, it a problem that does have a solution.
MetroLink proposes to upgrade the Luas Green Line to metro-standard. The Green Line will run out of capacity by 2027. Without further upgrades, passengers will be left behind at platforms at peaks times, particularly at stops closer to the city.
MetroLink proposes to fully segregate the Green Line as part of the metro upgrade. This will make the Green Line similar to a DART line. The advantages of full segregation are:
- It's safer. There are no level-crossings
- The metro can be driveless, which reduces the operating cost
- It will have a higher capacity
- MetroLink can install platform edge doors. This increases the metro speed and prevents people falling onto the tracks
Achieving full segregation will be difficult but possible. Full segregation would not allow pedestrians, cyclists or cars to cross the tracks like they do now. All vehicle level-crossing would be closed, or replaced with an overpass or underpass. In areas where only pedestrians or cyclists cross the line either bridges or underpasses would be needed. Along the line new fencing would be constructed to keep trespassers out.
The MetroLink line can be fully segregated and still allow the community to move around as freely as they do now.
Solutions aren't easy but are possible
It's not quiet as simple as providing footbridges. Not all footbridges or underpasses provide the same level of free movement. This could make crossing the line slower or more troublesome, particularly for cyclists, the young, the elderly, or people with a mobility impairment.
Footbridges would requite lifts. If a lift is out-of-order people with a mobility impairment would not be able to cross the line without a large detour. Footbridges also discourage cyclists. Ramps under or over the line could be an option. Ramps can't break down like lifts, and they can be friendly to pedestrians, cyclists and people with mobility impairments.
It is useful to examine the the six seven existing at-grade crossings of the Green Line between Ranelagh and Sandyford to see how each crossing could allow free movement of people and still fully segregate the line.
Dunville Avenue is a road crossing by the Beechwood Luas stop for pedestrians, cyclists and cars. The road is used mostly by local residents.
Dunville Avenue level-crossing. Image: Google Streetview
The old Harcourt Rail Line went over Dunville Avenue on a bridge. This bridge was removed in 2003 when the Luas was under construction because the old bridge was too low.
Initially MetroLink proposed to close Dunville Avenue to traffic. After local opposition in the first public consultation Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) are now proposing that the tracks will either be go under or over the road.
Metro rail underpass concept (left); metro rail overpass concept (right).
Raising or lowering the tracks will maintain the current level of free movement. However, there are downsides: it is estimated to cost €25-35 million; it would also require the temporary closure of the Green Line for 6-9 months during construction.
There is a small pedestrian crossing of the line between Albany Road and an alley on the other side of the line. MetroLink proposes to close this crossing as it is lightly used. A footbridge could be installed but it would be costly.
Albany Road crossing. Image: Google Streetview.
Cowper Luas Stop
At Cowper Luas Stop there is a crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. MetroLink proposed a footbridge at this crossing point. This could be problematic for cyclists and people with mobility impairments. There is potentially enough land in public ownership on either side of the line to provide a underpass that is suitable for pedestrians, cyclists and people with mobility impairments.
At Milltown Luas stop there is a road crossing into Alexandra College, a fee-paying secondary school. MetroLink proposes to close this entrance to cars, as there is another vehicle entrance to the school on Milltown Road.
Since Richmond Avenue Lower is parallel to the Luas tracks there is not enough space for an underpass. A footbridge could be constructed here for pupils and staff to access to the school grounds.
Windy Arbour Luas Stop
At Windy Arbour there is an important pedestrian and cycle crossing of the line.
There is land within public ownership either side of the line that could be used to construct a pedestrian and cycle underpass. An underpass could maintain the same level of access for pedestrians and cyclists in the area.
St Raphaela's Road
St Raphaela's Road is a road between Stillorgan Village and the Sandyford industrial park. TII determined that it was impossible to close this road to traffic.
TII suggest raising the tracks over the road. This would maintain free movement for everyone. The engineers have proposed laying a set of temporary tracks just parallel to this road crossing. That would allow the Luas to continue to operate while the over bridge is constructed.
Path at back of Mount Saint Annes
Edited: We initially missed a crossing of the Luas line between Mount Saint Annes and Richmond Avenue South near Milltown. Thanks to our twitter followers for pointing this out.
This path links the residential development at Mount Saint Annes with Richmond Avenue South. It provides access to Milltown Luas stop for hundreds of residents .
The point marked 'A' is where the path beings. Point 'B' is an informal crossing point that pedestrians sometimes use to avoid a 200m detour. This desire line is important. Point C is an official crossing of the line at the side of Alexandra College's sports hall.
This crossing cannot just be closed without severely reducing local movement and marking it harder for hundreds of people to get to the Luas stop at Milltown. The area is space constrained with limited land in public ownership. This crossing point needs a lot of thought. Constructing a footbridge near point 'B' would suit the current pedestrian desire line but it might require compulsory purchase (CPO) of private land.
Another unusual suggestion that might solve some of the permeability issues is to create a new pedestrian and cycle link between Merton Crescent and Park Drive, which allows access to Cowper Luas stop and across the line there. This would require local residents to agree but would provide a somewhat similar level of permeability for pedestrians. This option shouldn't be taken lightly.
Pedestrian and Cycle Underpass
At Cowper and Windy Arbour stops it should be possible to build underpasses for pedestrians and cyclists. A similar rail underpass was proposed as part of the Merrion Gates Removal Scheme on the DART line. This underpass was in a constrained space yet allowed pedestrians and cyclists to freely cross under the DART line.
Constructing underpasses might lead to temporary closure of the Luas Green Line, but the benefits for pedestrians and cyclists will be worth it. As an example, Irish Rail recently constructed a road underpass on the Dublin to Cork railway as part of the Newbridge Bypass in Kildare. The railway was only closed for a long weekend.
MetroLink will not be a "Berlin Wall" for the south city if the segregation problems are solved with engineering solutions appropriate for the whole community. A combination of rail overpasses, pedestrian and cycle underpasses and foot bridges will work. MetroLink can be built in a way that delivers huge benefits to the whole city and still limits the potential downsides to communities in South Dublin.
- Why there are few options left for upgrading the Green Line capacity
- A south west metro instead of the Green Line upgrade would be a mistake
- Answers to frequently asked MetroLink questions