Transforming Dublin with the Luas Cross City light-rail

Posted: 6 May 2015 | Pat O’Donoghue, Director of Design & Construction at the Railway Procurement Agency

Dublin suffers from intense traffic congestion which costs the state enormously in terms of lost productivity, higher cost of conducting business, loss of inward investment, environmental emissions and high accident rates. Pat O’Donoghue, Director of Design & Construction at the Railway Procurement Agency, explains that the Luas Cross City light-rail network will offer a fast, frequent and reliable alternative to the private car for travelling to the city centre and is designed to accommodate a high level of existing demand…

Transforming Dublin with the Luas Cross City light-rail

Dublin has been transformed by the return to the streets of the tram after an absence of over half a century. Dublin’s Luas (Speed in Gaelic/Irish) light-rail system has gone from strength-to-strength in the 11 years that have passed since the return of the tram in 2004.

There have been several extensions to the original network during those years but the current one is the biggest yet. The Luas Cross City (LCC) project is set to integrate the city’s public transport network and when completed, the project will provide an extension of the Luas Green Line from St. Stephen’s Green to Broombridge via Dublin City Centre, and the north city suburbs of Broadstone and Cabra.

The project will bring many benefits to the public including making that ‘missing link’ in the Luas network. The scheme involves the extension of the Luas system to the north of Dublin city centre and greater integration of Luas, Rail and bus systems in Dublin. The original Green and Red lines were opened in June 2004 and September 2004 respectively. The original lines were not connected to each other in the city centre leaving a gap of 1.5km. There was concern prior to the construction of Luas about the impact of construction on the city centre and therefore the decision was made to go ahead with two unconnected lines. The success of Luas has meant that there is far greater public support for going ahead with this project now than there was prior to the introduction of Luas.

It is conservatively estimated that the increased public transport share in the region will add 10 million Luas journeys every year and significantly reduce city centre congestion, as well as having economic benefits of enhanced mobility and connectivity.

Works began on the project in June 2013 with the infilling of all of Dublin’s Georgian cellars that extend under the street system in the city. The cellars needed to be filled prior to the construction of Luas Cross City to create space for the essential diversion of utilities. These works were in progress up until January 2014.

The on-site team began the essential heritage works in September 2013 which involved the removal of some statues on the route of Luas Cross City, which have now been placed in storage. The removal of statues was necessary for their protection during the construction phase in order to avoid any damage. The heritage works were a vital part of the project and were underway for four months. Further heritage works will take place during the following phases and restoration of almost all of the items will take place before the project is completed. A big benefit to the city is that repair and renovation of these heritage items is a by-product of Luas Cross City works.

September 2013 also saw the start of the diversion of the city’s underground pipes and cables and other services from underneath the running tracks. These diversionary works are necessary in order to prevent future repair or maintenance work on these services causing tram disruptions. These diversionary works will continue until late-2015.

The main infrastructure contract was awarded at the start of 2015 and mobilisation of the successful bidder’s team has already begun. The supporting structure for the tracks has already been built and so this section of the works will involve the laying of the new track and the surrounding roadway; the footpaths will also be reinstated.

By June 2016 the scheme will progress to dealing with the Luas’ mechanical and electrical (M&E) systems. Electrical power, signal controls and other systems are needed to operate Luas trams and so overhead cables will be erected and the myriad of electrical and mechanical systems put in place to ensure the safe operation of the system. The completion of the M&E works is estimated to be around September 2017.

By March 2017 the testing and commissioning phase of the project will finally get underway.

This scheme, which extends the Green Line therefore addresses the issue of connectivity between the two lines. The Green Line extension project will connect shopping and business districts with frequent services from convenient central stops from St. Stephen’s Green to Parnell Street thereby linking Dublin’s two main shopping precincts. The line will also serve the thousands of students heading for the new Dublin Institute of Technology Campus at Grangegorman and the established communities in Phibsborough and Cabra. The new campus, which brings together a whole raft of existing colleges, is expected to have 10,000 students on the spanking new campus when the new tram service goes into operation in late-2017. This will open up convenient third level opportunities for many in areas which might have previously found physical accessibility to third level opportunities very challenging. A high quality Luas network connecting with all main line rail services and hundreds of bus services is therefore now in sight.

As a result of the scheme 10 million extra passengers will be able to use the network with 800 jobs having been created during the construction process.

The current lack of a connected Luas network inconvenienced many existing customers as well as resulting in the system being underutilised as many potential customers are deterred by the prospect of a 10-15 minute walk to their closest stop.

Since investment in light-rail was first mooted for Dublin in the early-1990s, it was envisaged that a fully connected network would be built. Luas Cross City is the realisation of this objective and will see the integration of existing and future transport services particularly the Luas Red and Green Lines, rail services from Maynooth and Dunboyne and the majority of existing Quality Bus schemes which enter or cross Dublin City Centre.

Luas Cross City will allow trips to be made over the entire Dublin region without the need for multiple interchanges on different modes of transport. This integration of existing systems will offer further economic benefits which extend beyond the immediate corridor of the route.


Pat O’ Donoghue is Director of Design and Construction at the Railway Procurement Agency in Dublin, Ireland. He spent the earlier part of his career working as an engineer for Irish Rail and a consulting engineering firm. Since 1996 Pat has been heavily involved in developing the Dublin light-rail system. The first lines commenced operation in 2004 and it has been expanded since then to a network which is now about 38km-long. This work involved the preparation of railway orders, the statutory process, the detailed design, and procurement of contractors, construction, commissioning, safety approval and ultimately the operation of the various lines.

Related modes

Related cities