In Finglas, New Version of Planned Luas Route Aims to Untangle Issues

On 7 December, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) put out what it currently says would be the best route for the future Luas Finglas, an extension of the Green Line that would add four stops from its current terminus at Broombridge and bring it all the way to Charlestown.

It’s an update on an earlier option published in July 2021 when TII last asked for public feedback.

People have until 20 January 2022 to weigh in on the latest vision.

In the July 2021 consultation, 90 percent of respondents supported the principle of extending the Luas Green Line to Finglas, and 59 percent rated the emerging proposed route as good or very good. Meanwhile, 25 percent rated it as poor or very poor.

Among those with concerns are residents along the route who say they are apprehensive about it cutting through parks such as St Helena’s Park and Mellowes Park, and taking up green space and running too close to houses.

Running the Luas through parks and residential areas, rather than roads, was the best option to achieve segregation from traffic and a consistent journey time, says Tom Manning, spokesperson for TII.

The Current Proposal

Luas Finglas would have four stops, and add 3.9km to the 40.5km long Green Line.

The route would start at Broombridge, where the Intercity runs from Maynooth to Pearse, and the terminus of the Green Line.

Preferred Route for the Finglas Luas. Courtesy of Transport Infrastructure Ireland.

St Helena’s, a proposed stop several metres north of Tolka Valley Park, would be in an empty space of land up towards St Helena’s Park.

In the previous plans, the Luas route went straight through St Helena’s Park, rather than around the edge.

It now travels along Patrickswell Place, crosses Cappagh Road and into a green space along Cardiff Castle Road, and through the car park of Finglas Garda station. Previously, the route took a right turn into Mellowes Crescent.

Finglas Village stop would be along Mellowes Road, and the following stop, Mellowes Park, would be in the northern end of the park.

The route would cross the roundabout of the Finglas and North Road.

Charlestown would be the final stop, after the Luas runs up St Margaret’s Road to a park-and-ride car park.

TII estimates that it would be 14 minutes quicker to take the Luas from Charlestown to the city centre than by car.

Connecting to the City

Lisa Swift, out jogging last Friday near the Finglas Garda station, says she’s heard there’ll be a new Luas stop around here on Mellowes Road.

She’s looking forward to it, she says. Especially once she’s back in the office for work. “I’m in Abbey Street, so it’ll be handy for me to get the Luas,” she says.

Buses around here can be hit and miss, she says. “You hope that it’s gonna provide a better service.”

It’ll be good for the elderly people around too, she says. “More accessible for them, do you know what I mean? Rather than waiting on buses.”

According to 2016 Census data, in the electoral division of Finglas North B, where Mellowes Road is, 477 people drove to work, while 208 took the bus and 48 cycled.

In Finglas South B, where St Helena’s Road is, 681 people drove to work, while 433 took the bus, and 126 cycled.

Feljin Jose, a spokesperson for the Dublin Commuter Coalition, says a light-rail connection to the city, for those headed in and out, is much needed in Finglas.

It would make it much easier for people to get to the city centre, or to go to Broombridge and get a train from there to Maynooth, Drumcondra, the Docklands. And “it would make it much easier to connect with the Red Line and go out to Tallaght”, says Jose.

It would also create more opportunities for people in Finglas West, South, and Charlestown, he says, in jobs, sports, training, education. “In different places that were impossible before.”

Making Changes

Mary Callaghan, a Social Democrats councillor, says TII’s planning team has been consulting with locals to find the best route.

She’s been impressed by the expertise, she says. “And the fact that the local community’s concerns are being listened to and adjustments are being made to the plan in response to those concerns.”

On Friday, in Mellowes Crescent, a housing estate just off Mellowes Road, Tracey Fairbrother had a sign protesting the route in her window.

In the grassy hill across the road, a larger “No Luas” banner is rolled up, one end attached to a tree.

A sign calls for no Luas through Mellowes Crescent.

Fairbrother was against the version of the route that had been published in July.

“It literally would have gone beside that wall there, the neighbour’s wall,” she says, pointing over a low wall at the road leading deeper into the cul-de-sac. “So we would have had that all day long.”

TII listened to her and other residents’ concerns, says Fairbrother. Now, the plan is to put the Luas tracks through the car park of Finglas Garda station, beside Mellowes Crescent. Slightly further south, it would run in front of the 12 houses of Raven’s Court.

Fairbrother is happier with this, she says. “Definitely. That it’s not literally outside my front door.”

The Mellowes Crescent community is close-knit, she says, and having it right at the front door would have taken away from that. “Being able to see the neighbours, stand out there, have a chat, you know?”

Says Callaghan, the Social Democrats councillor: “I think it’s a fabulous opportunity for transport for Finglas. You know, we don’t have any transport by rail.”

“There’s a lot of new builds going to be developed over the next few years so it’s really crucial for Finglas to have a Luas,” she says.

Through Parks

The Luas will go through three parks: Tolka Valley, St Helena’s and Mellowes, as well as some green space at Raven’s Court.

In the 2021 public consultation, 70 of the 636 respondents to the public consultation said they did not support the route running through three parks, saying there is already limited green space in Finglas.

St Helena’s Park, south of Welmont Road, was quiet on Friday.

“It’s a good field, it’s a good space for people to go on their walks, or with the dogs or whatever. Or even the kids,” said Gemma Burke, as she strolled alongside the green fence around the park’s perimeter.

If the Luas, as is currently planned, runs along the eastern length, it will probably change the feeling of the quiet space, she says. “Obviously it’d be more busy.”

It could be good, she says, echoing others, that it will be easier for people to get to town. “Like I’m not against it. I just think it’s a bit random, where they’re planning on putting it.”

From her doorway on Casement Road, facing St Helena’s Park, Marta Leonard says the Luas could be loud for houses that back onto the park. “People say, ‘Oh, it’s not that noisy.’ But it’s not what I do hear about it.”

She’s worried, too, about whether public transport stations invite loitering or violence. You hear things, she says. “I think it’s frightening. And I hear stories all the time about the Luas.”

But she’d use it, she says. “It probably would be handy. But I don’t go to town now really at all.”

North of Tolka Valley Park.

At the southern end of Mellowes Park, a kilometre north of St Helena’s a low winter sun sets behind Mellowes Park Depot, which would be knocked to make way for the Luas line to enter the park.

Fairbrother, of Mellowes Crescent, says she doesn’t mind the idea of it running through Mellowes Park. “Once it’s not impacting you know, the park itself.”

But Peter O’Gorman, who’s out for a stroll, says building the Luas would cut into the park. “And it’s a tight enough park as it is.”

It’s a well-used space, says Elaine O’Gorman. “Families bring their kids in on bikes, you know, learning to ride a bike, because they can’t on the road.”

“Football on Saturday and Sunday,” says Peter. “Sometimes there’s picnics, and there go you, people are walking their dogs.”

“It’s the noise as well. You’ve a ding-ding every, what, seven minutes?” says Elaine.

The pair drive most places and occasionally use the bus, says Peter. “Is there a need for it? I mean, we don’t go to town anymore.”

“I mean, the younger people might need it, but we’ve four bus routes here, as far as I know,” he says.

Some green space in Raven’s Court, a small collection of houses off Cardiff Castle Road, would also be interrupted as part of the proposed route, before it continues through what is now the car park for Finglas Road Garda station.

Raven’s Court resident Michael Coughlan says kids play on green space within the estate, and in a green space around the corner. “Most of the green there that the kids would play on will be rendered useless,” he says.

He doesn’t feel he will benefit from it, either, he says. “We have, like the 40B bus stop literally around the corner, two minute walk. Loads of public transport, for us in particular.”

“There were apparently 20 other alternatives, but they chose Raven’s Court. Probably because there’s less residents here and they’ll feel like there’s less of a pushback than elsewhere,” he says.

TII met residents of Raven’s Court on Wednesday 8 December, said Manning, the TII spokesperson, and another meeting has been arranged.

Residents were told they can raise concerns through stakeholder submissions, he said. “Every effort is being made to keep the impact of the project on existing green space to a minimum.”

Callaghan, the Social Democrats councillor, says the design is being well integrated into the environment.

“It’s not just about plonking a Luas into an environment. It’s more about how this is going to look, how’s it going to face? How is it going to maintain the biodiversity that’s there?” she says.

It may have been better running through the Finglas Road dual carriageway, says Fairbrother, of Mellowes Crescent.

Manning, the TII spokesperson, said they looked at running the new Luas line along Finglas Road. But that would have tangled traffic.

While running the Luas along the Finglas Road would serve a slightly broader catchment area, and the infrastructure would be easier to build there, the Luas would have to cross four slip lanes of the Finglas Road, says the options report.

The Luas and buses could cause delays for one another, says the report. It would also affect road traffic capacity, and create safety hazards for cyclists.

The line runs through parks, says Manning, the TII spokesperson, “as this gives the opportunity to achieve a high level of segregation from traffic, delivering a short and consistent journey time, which is a key aspect of Luas”.

Dessie Ellis, a Sinn Féin TD, says the current route is being used because it’s not possible to build housing along it.

“Because you’d have to power drill and all this. That bit of land, while on the face of it it’s green land and it’s a stretch, we can’t build on that,” he says, of Mellowes Park.

Bikes, Meet Luas

The 2020 consultation report proposed constructing “a parallel cycle path along more than two thirds of the route”.

These two-thirds would have included a walking and cycle lane through Tolka Valley Park and the derelict space north of it, through St Helena’s Park and through Mellowes Park, according to the report.

However, this cycle route isn’t mentioned in the new proposed route for Luas Finglas. It also isn’t mentioned in the National Transport Authority’s Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network for 2022–2024.

Jose, of the Dublin Commuter Coalition, says that this should be a part of building works. “There’s a footpath along some of it now but it’s not a continuous route.”

“Other than targeted improvements here and there for cycling that was envisaged in the [Greater Dublin Area] cycle network plan, they’re removing a lot of it,” he says.

Dermot O’Gara, spokesperson for the NTA, said on Tuesday that in the Draft Revised GDA Transport Strategy, the proposed cycling network includes provision for cycling infrastructure in the Charlestown to Broombridge area.

“That will do the same job as the in route suggested in the 2020 consultation report. Much of this can be delivered well in advance of completion of Luas Finglas,” he said.

Said Manning: “As requested by the National Transport Authority (NTA) we have fully aligned the cycle provision of Luas Finglas with the NTA’s newly published GDA Cycling Strategy.

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Claudia Dalby: Claudia Dalby is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. She's especially interested in stories about the southside, transport, and kids in the city. Get in touch at [email protected]

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