In July of this year, the government announced that the Metrolink, a “high-capacity, high-frequency rail line running from Swords to Charlemont” would begin construction in 2025, with the projected completion date being some time in 2035. This new means of public transport would introduce a more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly option to travel around and into Dublin City Centre, making it a welcome innovation.
“The line was first proposed in 2005, and it took until 2018 for the government to announce that Metrolink operation was to begin in 2027.”
The Metrolink’s potential to be a massive asset to Dublin City has been overlooked by the government in the past, and the recent announcement of its construction is not the first. The line was first proposed in 2005, and it took until 2018 for the government to announce that Metrolink operation was to begin in 2027. This plan was quickly condemned by the government as “unachievable”, with a more realistic projection being as late as 2032. This indicates a trend of delay with the project, signalling a low priority in contrast to its necessity within the capital.
Dublin’s public transport system is calling out for major improvements, the Metrolink would be the solution to some of the issues presented by Dublin’s current network. In comparison to some other major cities in Europe, Dublin is totally lacking in public transport alternatives, which would be advantageous for both the environment and the community. Many other countries in Europe offer functioning and flourishing public transport systems, and the provision of metro, light rail or tram, and bus services seem to be the standard.
Firstly, to look at London, the population of almost 9 million and the area of 1,572 square kilometres. The London Underground hits virtually all of the city, providing easy and accessible access for its population, with eleven lines covering 272 stations in 420 kilometres in length. Additionally, London’s bus network serves over 700 routes, meaning that there is no lack of transport available, in any area of the city. The transport network also includes a Docklands Light Railway serving east and south-east London, as well as trams and regional trains.
Paris has a similarly comprehensive variety of public transport to offer its population of 2 million, stretching across its 105 square kilometre area. Covering almost 227 kilometres and boasting 300 stations, the Metro is the most efficient means of transport, running every 2 minutes in peak times. In addition, there are many other travel options, including the RER Suburban Express Railway, serving Paris and the Paris region, the tramway operating throughout the city, and 64 bus lines.
In contrast to these other two major cities, Dublin’s public transport system seems insufficient for its population of almost 550,000 and its 117 square kilometre area. The two lines of the LUAS cover a combined 44.5 kilometre distance, with the red line serving 32 stops across the city, and the green line serving 35 stops. This limited service, in turn, pushes people towards taking the bus, making Dublin Bus the biggest public transport provider in the Greater Dublin area, providing over 136 routes. This, compared to Paris, is an impressive number, when the other alternatives to travel provided in Paris are not considered.
“The nighttime transport shortage has been described as a “public safety issue” by Fianna Fail TD Paul McAuliffe, as it results in long waits for people late at night.”
One of the major issues that Dublin’s public transport system faces is its 24 hour and night time services. In recent months, a stark shortage of taxis in the area, specifically on Friday and Saturday nights, has become apparent. This nighttime transport shortage has been described as a “public safety issue” by Fianna Fail TD Paul McAuliffe, as it results in long waits for people late at night. This issue clearly stems from the lack of late night public transport options in the city. The LUAS stops operation between midnight at 12.40am, and only three 24 hour bus links run through the city; the 39a from UCD Belfield to Ongar, the 41 from the city centre to Dublin Airport and Swords, and the 15 from Ballycullen Road to Clongriffin.
Both London and Paris provide a plethora of overnight and 24 hour transport links: London’s Night Tube runs on Friday and Saturday nights across its Central, Jubilee, Northern and Victoria lines, and its bus system boasts 123 bus routes that operate overnight, including 73 24 hour services and 50 night bus alternatives. Paris’s metro operates until 1.45am on Fridays and Saturdays, while also providing the Noctilien, a 47 line night transport service running between 12.30am and 5.30am.
While Ireland’s public transport network is clearly lacking in comparison, it also seems to be on the more expensive side of European public transport. In 2022, TFI announced a fare reduction averaging 20% across all Irish transport services, but the fares still fail to compare to some other efforts made in Europe. For example, this summer Germany announced a new €9 ticket that acts as a nationwide travel pass, in an effort to combat rising fuel and living costs. These passes are valid until the 31st of August, and provide a month of cheap travel per ticket.
“While buses and trains run between major cities and towns, the majority of Ireland’s population cannot depend on the public network as a primary means of transport. This means that they cannot opt for a more sustainable alternative to driving, and with rising inflation, the cost efficient alternative is required even more.”
These transport failures within the capital are slight in comparison to the lacklustre transport systems available across the rest of the country. While buses and trains run between major cities and towns, the majority of Ireland’s population cannot depend on the public network as a primary means of transport. This means that they cannot opt for a more sustainable alternative to driving, and with rising inflation, the cost efficient alternative is required even more. Even with the limited public transport available outside of Dublin, there have been many issues brought to the fore. Recently, many of Irish Rail’s intercity services have been called out for overcrowding, with travellers being left without seats on trains, or allocated a seat in a carriage that the train does not carry. It seems that the limited public transport that ventures outside of the capital cannot even fulfil its most rudimentary of duties.
Overall, Ireland’s public transport system is in need of developments such as the Metrolink in order to combat its shortcomings. It seems as though the government is aware of this, also recently announcing the expansion of the DART into a new DART+ West project stretching as far as Maynooth and the M3 Parkway in Meath, which is projected to be completed in 2029. However, in tandem with this, the failures of the current system are being seen, as only over a week ago, the DART experienced a two hour delay in Bray as passengers complained of poor ventilation and lack of air conditioning on one of the hottest days of the year. Dublin’s transport network is calling out for improvement, and while the government’s promises provide some glimmer of hope, the reform for current and standing issues may have to come quicker than ‘projected’ dates.