Rush-hour mayhem as Luas signalling crash creates 'perfect storm'
Dublin commuters were plunged into transport chaos yesterday morning after a breakdown of Luas Cross City's signalling system.
Trams, cars, buses and cyclists were forced to endure a longer rush hour than usual, with transport bosses admitting that while the problem had been resolved, there was no guarantee it wouldn't happen again.
Traffic was delayed at one of the city's busiest traffic junctions, between St Stephen's Green and Dawson Street, from 8.40am, with delays taking more than an hour to clear.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) said the problem arose due to a signalling issue, as Luas systems clashed with those controlling private car, bus and pedestrian crossings.
It is understood that in some cases trams were given permission to proceed, but then ordered to stop prematurely to allow buses to go through busy junctions. This resulted in knock-on delays across the city as the system failed to communicate as designed.
There were reports of gridlock around College Green, with trams lined up unable to move.
The morning rush hour was extended, with delays up to Parnell Square and across D'Olier Street.
The new line connecting Broombridge near Cabra to St Stephen's Green opened over the weekend, but yesterday was its first test of normal commuting patterns. A spokesman for TII said the problem "couldn't have happened at a worse time".
The issue started at around 8.40am, when Luas was given the go-ahead to proceed along some parts of the network - but so were buses and cars.
"The operations team went down to the area between St Stephen's Green and Dawson Street with Dublin City Council and the gardai," he said.
"We commenced the immediate diagnostics to override the system and somebody manually operated the system.
"We had people on standby over the afternoon and into the evening, and hopefully the diagnostics and solution will solve the issue. This is part of a new system integrating with an existing system. Basically, the signalling system crashed.
"You will have teething problems. Once you're in full operation, with severe weather conditions and traffic, it was the perfect storm for traffic mayhem.
"It did cause major disruption. We're not happy with this, to say the least."
He added TII could not guarantee it wouldn't happen again, but that the situation would be closely monitored today.
AA Ireland spokesman Barry Aldworth said that while the signalling fault "didn't help", delays were expected as motorists and other road users become accustomed to the new system.
"What we need to bear in mind is there were always going to be teething problems. Today was the first day with Luas, buses and rush-hour traffic," he said.
"There were a lot of teething problems but we did see the same thing earlier this year when changes along Bachelor's Walk were introduced.
"For the first three or four days there was a bit of a panic as people adjusted. Hopefully, people will have come to grips with this shortly.
"Rush hour extended slightly because of this. The signal fault didn't help, but there needs to be a better contingency plan in the event of another fault."
Luas Cross City is effectively an extension of the Green Line, which now runs from Bride's Glen to Broombridge, where it connects with Irish Rail services to Maynooth, Longford and Sligo.
The €368m line was officially opened by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Saturday and completed full services over the weekend.
It is designed to carry up to 10 million passengers a year and each tram should remove around 230 cars from the road.