By Noel T. Braymer
During my 2 week vacation in Dublin in the first half of May this year, I did what I often do: ride the local trains. I don’t consider myself a railfan as such. But there is much to learn about a city and a region from its transportation system. Also there is much to learn from other regions from their successes and their failures. Dublin is an old city and has a high population density. The result of this much of the development was done in the past without zoning laws. So you find housing, businesses, pubs, shops and factories all mixed together. A result of this is it is a short walk for people to stores, doctor offices, housing, pubs and jobs in many cases. There is heavy use of bus service. Routing is often confusing since the road system is not a grid system and bus lines often share major roads, then branch off to different routes. There are suburban areas that have freeway like roadways and shopping centers akin to what you see in most of the United States. But the hub of Dublin is the old city along both banks of the River Liffey. There is no place or money to build freeways through the heart of Dublin. But what Dublin has is a network of rail lines with lots of capacity to connect the whole Dublin Region.
Dublin since the late 1980’s has been building incrementally an improved regional passenger rail network. At the heart of this is DART or Dublin Area Rapid Transit. The DART trains are EMU’s with overhead catenary. It is more a hybid commuter rail service than a rail transit service. Trains run roughly north to south along the coast of the Irish Sea between Ireland and Britain every 15 minutes with long high capacity trains. DART has branches in the north to Howth and Malahide, serves major uptown stations at Connolly, Tara St, Pearse and Grand Canal Dock and then runs south to Greystones. There have been many plans to extend DART, which are held back by lack of founding.
What is interesting is over the last 10-15 years there has been a growing system of Dublin Commuter rail services. These trains largely run during rush hours but many lines also have service during the day and weekends, These trains use Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) trainsets which have better acceleration than locomotive hauled trains. Most passenger equipment including Intercity services are in Ireland are using DMU trains, so outside of freight service, very few locomotives are seen on the rails these days. The commuter trains share many of the same tracks in central Dublin and stations with DART. Transferring between DART and Dublin Commuter trains open up travel to many places in the Dublin Metro area.
In Dublin I took a ride on a new Dublin Commuter service which started late last year. There are limited connections to the suburban areas west of central Dublin directly by train. The 1844 Heuston Station is a stub end station at the west end of central Dublin. What has been done is improve an existing 1877 freight tunnel to operate thru service from the West to the coastal job rich stations in Dublin to the east. Back in 2008 there was planning to build a new tunnel along the south bank of the River Liffey to extend rail service from the east of Dublin to Heuston Station and to the area to the west. The financial crash of 2008 put this project on hold. So using this existing tunnel goes part of the way of what was planned back in 2007. For now there is only service with about 7 trains eastbound in the morning rush hours and westbound in the afternoon rush hours. There are future plans to extend service as ridership grows throughout the day and weekends. For me to take the train, I rode on DART to Pearse Station which is one station north of the current terminal for this new service at Grand Canal Dock. I caught the first afternoon departure west. After getting west of Heuston area, I got off and took a train back to Heuston and rode a crowded rush hour LUAS train to east Dublin.
One last project happening in Dublin is the extension of the LUAS Light Rail Green Line north to Bloombridge. The current LUAS system is almost 23 route miles on 2 lines, the Red and Green with 54 stations. The under construction LUAS Cross City project will extend the LUAS roughly 3 and a half miles (5.6 km) and add 13 more stations . The Cross City project will extend the existing Green Line from south of the Liffey to the North Side, connect with the east/west Red LUAS Line and serve busy O’Connell Street. This 363 million euro project has been under construction since June 2013 and is expected to be operational by 2018.