City to 'open up' thanks to launch of 'phenomenally important' cross-city Luas
Christmas shoppers can experience an open Dublin like never before when Luas Cross City opens next week.
The revamped network will open up pockets of the city, providing a high-speed link between major shopping and business centres in both the city centre and suburbs, and connect the capital's transport network.
The €368m light rail system will open to passengers next Saturday at 2pm, extending the Green Line, which currently runs from Bride's Glen to St Stephen's Green, onward to Broombridge, near Cabra, a total journey of 21 minutes.
There are 13 new stops on the route, eight of which are in the core city centre.
Some 10 million passengers a year are expected to use the service, which has been a long time coming.
When the existing Red and Green lines were proposed in the 1990s, it was decided not to join them amid concerns from city traders and politicians about the impact the construction works would have on the city centre, and a fear that people would avoid the area entirely.
Paulo Carbone, head of public transport capital projects at Transport Infrastructure Ireland, said the project was not without difficulty.
Heritage works involved removing statues, including Molly Malone. Utilities - most of which were not mapped - also had to be moved.
Hundreds of cellars were found underneath buildings, which had to be filled. The main works resulted in major traffic diversions, many of which are permanent.
"The biggest constraint was to keep the city alive for work, play, university and so on," he said. "Businesses would have loved us to work at night, but hotels had a different view."
There will be teething problems as motorists get used to sharing road space with trams, but drivers are trained to identify problems.
The Phibsboro stop is in an old railway cutting and is "old style", he said, whereas nearby Cabra is modern.
The pier to connect the terminus at Broombridge with the Irish Rail station is still weeks away due to "procurement issues" and, until it is in place in early 2018, passengers will have to take a three-minute walk.
Senior lecturer in transport planning at DIT, Dave O'Connor, said the importance of the project cannot be over-stated.
"This should have happened in the first place, and the idea of linking up the network is phenomenally important," he said. "It will allow you transfer across the city, and it opens up the network."
Each 43-metre tram carries 300 people, the equivalent of taking up to 230 cars off the road. Longer 55-metre trams coming into service by early 2018 will provide 20pc more capacity.
Head of public affairs at Dublin Chamber, Graeme McQueen, said it has "massive potential" to open up Parnell Street, Dominick Street and Marlborough Street.
"It will lift the area, give it a freshness," he said.
Joe Dowling, from community group Hope (Hands On Peer Education), which helps people with addiction problems, said the Luas will open up the inner-city.
"It's going to create jobs for the community on Talbot Street, Parnell Street, Sean MacDermott Street. I remember the tram lines. This is like Christmas Day. It's a great boost," said Mr Dowling.