Updated: Apr 30, 2022
On Wednesday 4 May 2022, Dublin Commuter Coalition will appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications to speak about the Draft Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area. Below is our opening statement from Dublin Commuter Coalition chairperson Feljin Jose:
Thank you, Chairman and members of the committee, for the invitation to speak today on what we regard as a great opportunity to improve the lives and livelihoods of those in the Greater Dublin Area. I am Feljin Jose, chairperson of Dublin Commuter Coalition, and I’m joined today by Janis Morrissey, a member of our committee.
Who we are and what we do
Dublin Commuter Coalition is a voluntary advocacy group established in 2018 to act as a unifying voice for sustainable transport users in the Greater Dublin Area. Despite our name, we don’t advocate just for “commuters”, but for everyone in the GDA who walks, cycles or uses public transport. We represent the lived experiences of our members — from parents who want their children to walk or cycle to school independently, to people who cross the city each day for work or college, and older citizens who need reliable and accessible connections to their local shops and to their friends and family.
Our vision is for Dublin to have a transport network that is safe, accessible, connected and sustainable. We work to realise our vision through meetings with policymakers and engaging with public bodies as well as by being a voice for sustainable transport in social and traditional media.
How the landscape has changed since we were founded
When we were founded, the future of transport in Dublin looked bleak. There were very few public transport or active travel projects in progress and we spent all of our time countering objections and misinformation about what little was proposed. In just over three years, this has changed dramatically.
The calls to strengthen public transport infrastructure have only grown louder as the climate crisis has become more urgent and the many benefits of sustainable transport are becoming more widely recognised. We are pleased to see the rollout of the new BusConnects network and the submission of planning applications for BusConnects Core Bus Corridors. For us, this is a culmination of over three years of advocacy on different strands of BusConnects. The introduction of the new 90-minute fare — which enables free transfer between buses and rail services in the Dublin area — maximises the utility of the existing network by making multi-stage journeys easier and significantly cheaper. We are seeing very positive feedback on this both from our members and the general public and we hope to see it expanded to more areas around Dublin.
We also see a much greater appetite for safe active travel infrastructure and are pleased with the substantial increase in the delivery and planning for pedestrianised streets and segregated cycle routes.
The Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area
We have submitted our response to the public consultation on the Draft Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area as a briefing document for members of this committee. During the initial public consultation, 90% of respondents said that the Transport Strategy should seek to reduce the reliance on private cars for travel in the GDA. While the Draft Transport Strategy gets a lot of things right, it is less progressive than previous strategies at a time when the Dublin people — and indeed our planet — demand the most ambition. Our biggest concerns are the slow and vague timelines provided and the removal of two vital projects.
People in Dublin are increasingly frustrated with how long it takes to design, plan and build transport projects. We believe that the timelines for delivery of projects in the Draft Transport Strategy are far too slow. Given Ireland’s climate commitments and the growing demands to decrease air pollution, travel times and costly car dependency, we had hoped that the NTA would seek to accelerate some of these projects. However, we have seen no evidence of any accelerated delivery in the Draft Transport Strategy. For example, the sum of the Luas lines proposed to be built by 2042 in the Draft Transport Strategy is the same as what was proposed to be built by 2035 in the previous Transport Strategy — a new line to Lucan and small extensions to Finglas, Poolbeg and Bray.
While we are concerned with how slow the projects are and the general lack of urgency, we are also concerned with the vague timelines. The Draft Transport Strategy divides projects into two groups depending on when they’re due to be finished: 2022-2030 and 2031-2042. Beyond this, it is not clear when the projects listed will be completed. For example, the people of Navan were told that their rail line would finally be built but they don’t know if it will be built ten years from now or twenty years from now. It’s very difficult to bring communities along on these large projects with vague timelines such as that. They don’t instil any confidence in the projects and people find it hard to believe that they will ever be built.
A notable omission from the Draft Transport Strategy is the DART+ Tunnel which was previously known as DART Underground. This project would completely transform the eastern rail network by connecting the Kildare Line and the Northern Line with stops right in the heart of Dublin. The previous Transport Strategy planned to build this crucial piece of infrastructure by 2035, but the Draft Transport Strategy postpones it for at least the next twenty years. This year marks fifty years since it was first proposed. This delay exemplifies the lack of urgency and leadership evident throughout the document.
The Luas Green Line between Charlemont and Sandyford was built with the intention that it would eventually be upgraded from a tram to a metro. The previous Transport Strategy proposed to link this high-capacity section of the Luas Green Line to the new high-capacity metro at Charlemont to create one long metro corridor from Swords to Sandyford for relatively little additional cost. Housing developments along this corridor have already been built on the promise that this line will be upgraded but this essential upgrade is now noticeably absent from the Draft Transport Strategy.
We believe it is also important to acknowledge that this strategy is better than the previous Transport Strategy in some areas. We welcome changes such as extension of the DART to Sallins, Wicklow and Kilcock and the inclusion of the Navan rail line.
We believe that the Draft Transport Strategy falls well short of what is needed to facilitate the radical shift away from private cars to sustainable modes that is required to meet our climate commitments and reduce congestion, air pollution and inactivity. We are seeking substantial changes to the plan before it is finalised and approved by the Minister. With greater ambition, the Draft Transport Strategy can be a catalyst for change. Dublin Commuter Coalition sees a future where Dublin can be a leader in the provision of safe, accessible, and sustainable transport for all. The people of Dublin demand and deserve it.