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Luas still on track

01 Aug 2003

Sir - Your report 'Luas lags behind' (RG 7.03 p424) gives a pessimistic, and at times rather sensationalist picture of the progress of the Dublin light rail project.

The original cost estimates you quote from the Dublin Transportation Initiative strategic study of 1991-94 (in Irish pounds, not euros) referred to the outline construction costs of a different network which had not been subject to any design. The actual cost of Luas as approved by government in 2000 was €671m. This took into account the extraordinary inflation and growth in the Irish economy since 1994, the large amount of expensive property acquisition, the high cost of utilities, and the generally high standards of design which we have employed in the Georgian heart of the Irish capital.

Irish construction inflation was recorded at over 12% a year in 2000, although it has subsequently fallen back somewhat. The original estimate has only been increased from €671m to €691m, and the Railway Procurement Agency controls a contingency budget in the normal manner, should we face any further unexpected occurrences.

It is true that the project is somewhat behind the original schedule. In this regard it is similar to many other light rail schemes. Amongst other things, delays have been caused by unexpectedly complex utilities issues, complicated land ownership questions and restrictions on work methods, traffic management and working time periods in the historic city centre. We expect that Luas will open in summer 2004, and will run on a 5min (or better) headway thereafter, dramatically improving the quality and supply of public transport in Dublin. Our website www.luas.ie will give your readers a better feel for this most complex project.

We take exception to your notion that the Red Cow roundabout design was deliberately changed for lack of funds. In fact the design has only ever had minor revisions, and otherwise remains as it did nearly seven years ago. Discussion of a grade-separated solution is more recent, and would in any event need to be co-ordinated with the longer-term plans of the Irish National Roads Authority to rebuild the entire motorway intersection.

The idea that the passage of trams through the city will cause 'chaos' seems to be a very serious error of judgement in a magazine advocating rail-based public transport. In fact the centre of Dublin is undergoing an overall policy of traffic management and calming, and O'Connell Street has seen a reduction of 40% in through traffic over the last three years. The Dublin Transportation Office strategic plan calls for further reductions via road pricing and/or parking restraint, matched by further investment in Luas and Metro, as your report makes clear.

Overall we feel that the balance of discussions on Luas has not been helped by your report, and we would have expected rather better from a magazine with the professional reputation of Railway Gazette.

Luke Albanèse

Director, Transportation Planning

Railway Procurement Agency

Dublin, Ireland

Luas still on track

Sir - Your report 'Luas lags behind' (RG 7.03 p424) gives a pessimistic, and at times rather sensationalist picture of the progress of the Dublin light rail project.

The original cost estimates you quote from the Dublin Transportation Initiative strategic study of 1991-94 (in Irish pounds, not euros) referred to the outline construction costs of a different network which had not been subject to any design. The actual cost of Luas as approved by government in 2000 was €671m. This took into account the extraordinary inflation and growth in the Irish economy since 1994, the large amount of expensive property acquisition, the high cost of utilities, and the generally high standards of design which we have employed in the Georgian heart of the Irish capital.

Irish construction inflation was recorded at over 12% a year in 2000, although it has subsequently fallen back somewhat. The original estimate has only been increased from €671m to €691m, and the Railway Procurement Agency controls a contingency budget in the normal manner, should we face any further unexpected occurrences.

It is true that the project is somewhat behind the original schedule. In this regard it is similar to many other light rail schemes. Amongst other things, delays have been caused by unexpectedly complex utilities issues, complicated land ownership questions and restrictions on work methods, traffic management and working time periods in the historic city centre. We expect that Luas will open in summer 2004, and will run on a 5min (or better) headway thereafter, dramatically improving the quality and supply of public transport in Dublin. Our website www.luas.ie will give your readers a better feel for this most complex project.

We take exception to your notion that the Red Cow roundabout design was deliberately changed for lack of funds. In fact the design has only ever had minor revisions, and otherwise remains as it did nearly seven years ago. Discussion of a grade-separated solution is more recent, and would in any event need to be co-ordinated with the longer-term plans of the Irish National Roads Authority to rebuild the entire motorway intersection.

The idea that the passage of trams through the city will cause 'chaos' seems to be a very serious error of judgement in a magazine advocating rail-based public transport. In fact the centre of Dublin is undergoing an overall policy of traffic management and calming, and O'Connell Street has seen a reduction of 40% in through traffic over the last three years. The Dublin Transportation Office strategic plan calls for further reductions via road pricing and/or parking restraint, matched by further investment in Luas and Metro, as your report makes clear.

Overall we feel that the balance of discussions on Luas has not been helped by your report, and we would have expected rather better from a magazine with the professional reputation of Railway Gazette.

Luke Albanèse

Director, Transportation Planning

Railway Procurement Agency

Dublin, Ireland