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A Bright Future for the Luas

Title: A bright future for Luas
Author: CILT

A bright future for Luas
2012 proved a remarkably successful year for Luas. Passenger numbers on Luas reached an all time high. An Bord Pleanála granted the Railway Order for the extension to the Luas Green Line between Saint Stephen’s Green and Broombridge, now known as Luas Cross City. The business case for Luas Cross City was brought to Cabinet and the project was given permission to commence construction in 2013. RPA started to export the Luas success story by securing two significant consultancy contracts, in Bergen and Utrecht.

Luas operations
The Luas Red and Green lines first began carrying passengers in 2004 and were an immediate success, proving that investment in high quality public transport can be successful and return considerable benefits.

While Luas passenger numbers fell during the recession, they have grown steadily since 2010, partly helped by the opening of the new extensions to the system in 2010 and 2011. Passenger numbers reached a record high of 29.4 million in 2012 and we are set to beat this record and surpass the 30 million mark in 2013. The record numbers in 2012 were achieved despite losing a week’s service due to a major fire adjacent to the Red Line early in the year.

The operational success of Luas is in no small part due to RPA’s approach to Luas projects. We do not just regard ourselves as building infrastructure, but instead see our projects in terms of providing a service to the public. The fundamental difference between RPA and an ordinary consultancy or engineering function is that we oversee the ongoing operation of the tram service, which means we have a huge interest in the final product and how it is going to perform. It is not just a question of satisfying technical criteria, we constantly have in mind that the system has to attract passengers and provide a good service. RPA also works collaboratively with its operating partner, Veolia Transdev Ireland, to see how we can continue to improve the service we provide to our customers while working hard to reduce costs.

Luas Cross City
The granting of the Railway Order for the Luas Cross City project in August, coupled with the project being given the green light by the Cabinet in November, promises a very bright future indeed for the Luas.
Luas Cross City is the most important project RPA has undertaken since the opening of the first Luas lines in 2004. As hugely successful as Luas has been, it has never realised its full potential due to the lack of connectivity between the Red and Green lines. We carry out regular customer satisfaction surveys and the one constant question we have gotten over the last nine years is “When are you going to join up the lines?”
By their very nature, networks always give rise to substantially greater system utilisation than individual lines operating on a stand-alone basis, as the catchment area of each line is effectively extended to encompass the catchment of the entire network.

The impact of finally completing this missing link is starkly shown by the forecast increase in passenger numbers which the new line will generate when it opens. While Luas is expected to carry over 30 million passengers in 2013, this will jump to over 40 million with Luas Cross City in place.
The Luas Cross City will not only finally link the Red and Green lines, it will also create a new linkage with the Iarnród Éireann suburban rail network at Broombridge, thus offering hugely improved mobility for people far beyond its immediate catchment. An efficient public transport network is a vital factor in attracting investment in a city and generating economic growth. Improved mobility facilitates access to markets and services for business; and to jobs and leisure activities for the population it serves. Dublin has in the recent past suffered from serious traffic congestion. While the current economic climate has lessened the problem to an extent, this serious traffic congestion will return as the economy starts to recover and will remain as a barrier to the long term economic well being of the city. Congestion costs the state enormously in terms of lost productivity, higher cost of conducting business, loss of inward investment, environmental emissions and high accident rates. A report by IBM, Smarter Cities for Smarter Growth, which was published in 2010 estimates that Dublin city traffic congestion costs 4.1% of GDP per annum. Based on current GDP estimates, that amounts to over e6 billion annually.

Evidence of this can be seen in the business case for the project, which demonstrates that the economic benefits of the project outweigh its cost by a factor of over 2 to 1. The International Association of Public Transport, UITP, sums up the reasons for this well: “While large-scale public transport projects are costly, the cost of improving urban mobility is actually significantly lower than the direct cost of congestion. If the external costs and social impacts of congestion are factored in, it becomes even clearer that investing in public transport represents good value for money.”
The line brings other immediate benefits.

It provides for a new high quality public transport corridor between St. Stephens’s Green and Broombridge serving Dublin City Centre businesses, residents and key retail and tourist destinations such as St. Stephen’s Green, Dawson Street, Trinity College, Temple Bar, O’Connell Street and Parnell Square. Luas Cross City will make a very real contribution in the area of tourism. Ireland’s tourism performance has been disimproving since its peak in 2006, as highlighted by the World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report in 2011, which showed Ireland’s ranking in terms of attractiveness for tourists falling from 18th in 2009 to 21st in 2011. Transport was highlighted as one of the weak areas for Ireland, with the quality of the state’s ground transport network ranking 104 out of 139 countries surveyed. Dublin is the largest tourism market in the state, and many of the top tourist attractions in the country fall within the immediate catchment of Luas Cross City. Easily accessible transport modes such as Luas are particularly beneficial for tourists and visitors. Luas Cross City will directly service the new Dublin Institute of Technology campus at Grangegorman, which will be home to more than 10,000 third-level students when it opens in 2017. It brings high capacity efficient public transport deep into the north side of Dublin city and the densely populated areas of Phibsborough and Cabra. It provides the platform for onward extensions towards Finglas and further north.

Luas Cross City will help contribute to the regeneration of long-neglected areas in the north city such as Dominick Street, Marlborough Street, Parnell Street, Grangegorman and Broombridge. The redevelopment of these areas will provide key social and economic benefits and allow these areas to develop and prosper in a way that is less reliant on the private car and will thus be environmentally and economically sustainable. The enhancement of the city centre realm will help to grow Dublin as a tourist, shopping and cultural destination.
Recent trends in out of town developments, allied with the recession and factors such as upward only rent reviews have had a huge impact on retail activity in the city centre. Luas Cross City will dramatically increase the attractiveness of the city centre as a place to shop, as it will bring together the two major shopping districts in the city (the Grafton St. and Henry St. areas), until now disconnected.

Since cabinet gave the go ahead for the project in November, RPA has been busy on the design and procurement front. The first construction contracts for Luas Cross City will be awarded in the coming months. The main infrastructure contract to build the tracks and power and control systems will be awarded in 2014, with a view to all works being completed by 2017.
We look forward to welcoming you all on board!

RPA Consultancy Services
The Luas success story has not gone unnoticed in Europe. RPA has hosted delegations from a number of European cities who are considering investing in Light Rail and are anxious to understand the secret of our success.
RPA is now exporting this success story, through its consultancy business unit. Our experience as both developer and operations contract manager means we can offer clients an end to end service, from concept, route selection and planning through to procurement, construction, safety case approval and commercial operations. We use our deep understanding of the public transport users’ needs to build in operational success from the start of the concept and planning process. We offer detailed design and consultancy services relating to traction power supply systems, railway signalling and control systems, railway rolling stock, track alignment design, track systems and wheel rail interface issues; and can draw on our expertise to help clients minimise operating and maintenance costs and maximise asset performance. Our operations team offer a comprehensive advisory service covering timetable scheduling, fare setting and asset management.
Utilising the project management tools and methodologies which were developed to successfully deliver the Luas schemes, we can help our clients reduce risks, minimise costs and deliver their projects on time.
Our current projects include the planning and design of a light rail maintenance depot for Bergen light rail, and track alignment design for a light rail scheme in Utrecht.

Bright future
So all in all we have a lot to look forward to in the coming years: breaking the 30 million barrier this year and the 40 million barrier when Luas Cross City opens and showing that Ireland can lead the way in showing how to deliver highly successful urban public transport


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