There's a Reason the Luas Trams Won't Switch Between Lines

Last week, the Luas team published its new route map, including the Cross City line.

Due to go into service in December, the new line, despite being shown on the route map in blue, is essentially a continuation of the Green Line.

There will be an interchange at Abbey Street where passengers travelling on the Red Line will get off and walk to O’Connell Street to hop on the Luas Cross City or vice versa.

Some wondered why the new service doesn’t allow for trams to switch between the Red Line and the Green Line. Could we not have just joined them up? Why the interchange at all?

Map courtesy of Luas Cross City

Firstly, it’s a myth that Luas trams can’t transfer between the Green Line and the Red Line, says Hugh Creegan, deputy chief executive at the National Transport Authority.

“There is no difference in track widths or power supply,” said Creegan, by email. “A tram currently operating on the Red Line can also operate on the Green Line and vice versa.”

There are “engineering links” between the Red Line and the new Luas service, says Creegan, but these are only for “vehicle maintenance”. So the Luas trams still won’t transfer between lines carrying passengers.

Not everybody might be aware of that, says Green Party Councillor Ciarán Cuffe, who is head of the council’s transport committee.

“I think this was known amongst the trainspotters for quite some time, but for the lay person, they’re wondering if you can seamlessly hop from one train to another or have a choice of different trains bringing you to different destinations,” he says.

Independent Councillor Paul Hand says it would have made sense to have the two lines crossing over. “People have mentioned it and it has come up at the Transportation SPC,” he says. “I think it’s a no-brainer that they should be linked.

“It’s a bit bizarre,” says Hand. “It definitely makes sense for the Red line Luas to be able to go [directly] to Cabra and vice versa for the Green Line Luas to be able to go the Point Depot.”

But there is a reason that can’t happen.

Less Waiting

Creegan of the NTA says that rail systems like the Luas generally work best when there is single high-frequency route that intersects with another single high-frequency route. In other words, two separate line that don’t join.

“If services are frequent you have very little delay and the transfer can be largely seamless.  London Underground and the metro systems in most cities are examples of this arrangement,” he said.

The alternative is a “multi-leg” system, which would slow everything down, he says.

As an example, under such a system, one-third of the trams from Broombridge would go to Tallaght, another third might go to the Point, and the remaining third might continue directly onto the Green Line.

But the Luas can only manage about 20 trams for per hour, one every three minutes, in each direction through the city’s streets.

So the way it works out with a multi-leg service “could mean a nine minute wait for people who wanted to travel in any of these directions”, Creegan says. “This is a much less attractive service and more people have to wait longer for their journeys.”

“So instead of trams services going through Westmoreland Street and Dawson Street every three minutes, it would become every nine minutes, down from 20 an hour to 7 or 8 an hour.”

More Talk

Fine Gael Councillor Paddy McCartan says he thinks the public won’t take issue with the Abbey Street interchange when the Cross City opens later this year.

But Luas Cross City could do a better job letting people know what’s going, he says. “It’s a radical transformation and you have to bring the people with you.”

That could be as simple as improving the route map released last week, says the Green Party’s Cuffe.

He says the map is unnecessarily confusing for people, something editor of the New Statesman‘s City Metric, Jonn Elledge, also complained about last week.

“I think the Luas Cross City team have to up their game in communicating what’s happening over the next several months,” says Cuffe. “They need to rapidly improve that [map].”

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Cónal Thomas: Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

Reader responses

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Barry Sheehan
at 19 April 2017 at 13:37

The map is horrendous. Almost impossible to figure out what is going on in the City Centre…and I know the route and what is going on. What hope do visitors have?

at 19 April 2017 at 16:21

What a mess.

I don’t get why they had to throw every transport facility to smash together at O’Connell Street, rather than moving the hub away from the dead center of the capital, so there is at least some breathing space in the city – especially going around Trinity – when they could have gone Dawson \> Pearse train station \> Pearse Street.
They’ll really have to sort out the pedestrian space in the whole area, as it’s in a terrible state as it is, likewise the lack of security.

at 19 April 2017 at 20:27

It makes sense you can’t go everywhere on every Luas. As the city grows having to link between public transit routes will happen more and more. It’s a far more efficient use of space, easier to scale and something that could ultimately happen with Dublin Bus. The web shaped, everything goes through the city centre bus routes we have now chokes traffic in the centre of town, and as the city expands will have to be revised. Many major cities operate on this principle and, granted they may have easier to manage grid systems, but I think it will make sense if planned right. But that’s a whole other issue…

at 21 April 2017 at 10:36

@dave: If the interchange wasn’t in the centre, people like yourself would be complaining that they didn’t locate it in the centre.

Tonie Walsh
at 21 April 2017 at 11:15

There also needs to be some consistency in naming of lines. Surely the cross city is the ‘Blue Line’, following example of the older two?

at 21 April 2017 at 14:11

@Seán: Eh, no I wouldn’t.
Car Parks likewise shouldn’t be piled in the center of a city. It makes no sense.

at 21 April 2017 at 15:08

@dave: What would be the point of directing all the people using public transport away from the centre of the city? It makes no sense and would only be lambasted from all sides. It’s placed for convenience and ease of use.

at 24 April 2017 at 19:34

There is a curved section of track that connects the new line to the red line between O’Connell St. and Middle Abbey st, just in front of Supermacs.

at 25 April 2017 at 14:41

@Seán: You don’t destroy the main attraction of a living city center by piling buses, trams, cars and taxis through it and effectively turning it into nothing but a noisy roundabout and car park mess- you supply transport around the edges and let the city breathe in the center with pedestrians a priority.

at 8 May 2017 at 14:03

I think a lot of people also assume that you’ll be able to buy a ticket from, say, Stephen’s Green to Tallaght for example. That is, get off the Green Line, walk to the Red Line and with the same ticket board the tram to Tallaght. That’s what you can do when you “connect” in Paris or London. I’m not so sure that’s going to happen here.

at 23 May 2017 at 13:59

You can already buy a ticket from the Red Line to the Green Line without penalty.

The fares are zonal.

at 10 June 2017 at 10:36

Now you lot, don’t make things worse by talking about the ‘BLUE’ line….there are only 2 lines, RED & GREEN….Luascrosscity is the continueation of the GREEN line from St. Stephens Gr. to Broombridge in west Cabra ! is it sinking in!!!!!!!!!!.
I also agree to the fore mentioned idea that the LUAS should not have been brought to O’Connell St. Through the ages ‘they’ have thrown everything into our main axis. I hope that the statues ‘they’ have removed, will find new homes, for ex, Fr.Mathew, J. Larkin… did Anna Livia. Dublin City Planners seem to love ‘clutter’…..stop.

at 11 December 2017 at 09:28

I never saw the need to link, extending made more sense but to focus funds and expansion on a “link” for the two lines (and figuratively at that too) made zero sense as the commute between both is 10 minutes at a brisk solo pace, the kind you have on your commute. This feels like it saves zero time and benefits nobody who was already commuting from red line to green on their commute. Great that the lines go to more destinations but this linking fiasco makes no sense for most, great for those with physical disabilities though so at the end of the day it really is a big win for a lot of people that have a hard enough time as it is already, but the main gripe is how badly planned and implemented the whole thing was, you have to wonder did the engineers spend more than a week in our city?

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