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Thursday 8 December 2016

Concern as radical plan for transport sets out to ban cars from city centre

An artist's impression of DCC/NTA's transport plan for College Green
An artist's impression of DCC/NTA's transport plan for College Green
College Green as it is now
An artist's impression of DCC/NTA's transport plan for D'Olier Street
D'Olier Street before
An artist's impression of DCC/NTA's transport plan for Westmoreland Street
Westmoreland Street as it is today
The changes proposed under the new Dublin traffic plan

SERIOUS concerns have been raised about a radical new transport plan for Dublin which would see large sections of the city centre pedestrianised or closed to private traffic.

Motoring groups, commuters, business organisations and taxi drivers have all expressed reservations about the proposals for the city centre.

The plans include banning private cars from accessing College Green and some sections along the Quays.

On the northside, only public transport will be allowed to travel along Bachelors Walk and a similar set-up is envisaged on the southside, possibly at George's Quay, but a location has not yet been decided.

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College Green as it is now

Taxis will also be banned from College Green under the proposals which will see a roll-out of €150m in funds.

The ambitious plans are designed to make the city more attractive and encourage use of public transport or walking and cycling to access the central district.

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An artist's impression of DCC/NTA's transport plan for D'Olier Street

However, Conor Faughnan, the Director of Consumer Affairs at the AA, said that the plans seemed to be concerned about preventing private car use.

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D'Olier Street before

"I would just ask the question 'who's vision is that?' Why is that something we want to achieve?

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"From the point of view of the ordinary motorist you can't help but look at these measures and react cynically," he said.

"It feels as if one of the purposes is simply to prevent people using private cars and we would challenge that.

"They talk about providing extra cycle space, which everyone agrees with, but they also say that if that's proving difficult then to increase vehicle restrictions.

READ MORE: 'We'll see protests, it's just crazy,' says taxi union chief

"If you look at that for the whole city that doesn't make sense. They want to reduce car use for those crossing the canal cordon into the city centre by 40pc - that's 25,000 private cars every morning. What do they propose that these people do instead?

"In many cases people do not have a public transport option available to them."

READ MORE: Cars ban for central Dublin streets

While he welcomed many of the proposals in the consultation document, Mr Faughnan compared the plans to an "urbanised pedestrianised park".

"Under these plans you can imagine a city centre that is so calmed and is such a tranquil urban space that you could have a picnic on O'Connell Street," he said. "You do not provide alternatives by blocking car use. If we were to use that logic to its extension, you could achieve these objectives by putting up road blocks."

READ MORE: Cars and taxis may face city centre ban under new transport proposals

Richard Guiney, the CEO of Dublin Town, is pleased with the proposals but sounded a note of caution about the need to safeguard retailers in the centre of the city.

"I think we're in for some very exciting times. What we do know is that how people access the city is changing and we know it's good for the city that more people are using public transport," he said.

"There are some details that we do need to look at, for example how people who do want to access the city by car will be able to access the car parks of their choice.

"There's still a need to accommodate those people who want to travel by car. I think we can use technology - we can use access routes and help guide people to where they want to be.

"It's not that there's going to be no cars in the city but just that they will be managed in a better way which will create a better environment for people to live in."

However, the overall plans are to be welcomed, he said.

"In terms of improving the public realm, connecting the public transport and making the city a more attractive location, it's very welcome".

The National Transport Authority (NTA), who produced the study in conjunction with Dublin City Council, have committed to increasing bus and Dart services in 2016 to combat growing pressure on transport services.

Mark Gleeson, of the Rail Users Ireland commuter group, is not convinced that the plan will do anything to solve transport problems.

SHELVED

The plans include Bus Rapid Transport routes from the suburbs to the city centre but Mr Gleeson sees this as a poor alternative to other options for the greater Dublin area.

Six options for the best way to connect north Dublin and the airport to the city centre were published for consultation, including the Metro North project which was shelved.

"They're going to effectively pedestrianise a large chunk of inner-city Dublin which is great but they are not looking at the bigger picture," he argued.

"The reality is that traffic has to go somewhere and we're still back to square one, asking about the Metro North and the underground Dart project. If you really want to pedestrianise the city then we need those projects in place. We really need to be spending money on the big ticket projects".

Public consultation will begin on the plans today and people can view the proposals on www.dublincity.ie

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