A €300 million, 7.5km extension to Dublin’s Luas tram network is scheduled to open today with an official launch by Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Riders on the Luas Green Line will be treated to free travel to celebrate the opening of the Cherrywood extension from Sandyford to Brides Glen. Previews of today’s events can be found in the Irish Times and the Belfast Telegraph. Meanwhile, this Herald.ie report says government officials maintain “the line will carry an extra 2m passengers a year with an overall journey time from Cherrywood to St. Stephen’s Green of about 40 minutes.”
Considering the bigger picture, this Oct. 15 Irish Times piece notes how the line will offer a “winding scenic journey through the foothills of south Dublin,” as the spectacular development it was meant to serve has mostly failed to materialize thanks to the evaporation of Ireland’s building boom.
While the government has noted (see the Belfast Telegraph link above) that more than 26,000 residents will live within a 15-minute walk of the new line, the Irish Times points out that Just under half of the line’s cost “was to have come from special development levies on buildings approved along a one kilometre corridor either side of the line,” adding that “how much of this money has been collected remains unknown.”
The Times piece also observes an interesting irony: “railway agency personnel confined their comments on the issue to remarking on how innovative it was that transport infrastructure was being put in place before the houses, apartments and commercial premises.”
Some might call that smart growth — you know, laying down the tracks in hopes that planned, orderly development will follow. Except, of course, that the development was already supposed to be there. That point was underscored in this Oct. 5 Irish Times story noting that opening of two stops on the new extension — Racecourse and Brennanstown — is to be delayed due to incomplete “supporting development.”
Such manifestations of the global economic malaise offer a troubling coda to the Celtic Tiger’s years of growth, during which trams returned to Dublin in the form of the stylish and successful Luas network. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope the good times return.
In the meanwhile, best wishes to Dubliners on opening day. Erin go Luas!