The National Transport Authority (NTA) has published its infrastructural development plans for the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) for the 20 year period between 2022 and 2042.
The plans include proposed extensions to the Luas light rail tram service, which currently does not directly serve the UCD Belfield campus. The nearest stop on the Luas green line service is located at Windy Arbour, a roughly 2.9 km (36 minute) walk from campus.
As reported by Business Post, officials have confirmed that the project is not anticipated to be completed until 2042, almost two decades from now. UCD has repeatedly made calls for the light rail service to be extended to serve the Belfield campus, in a bid to reduce traffic congestion and alleviate commuter reliance on cars as a means of transport.
In an Irish Times article dated to November 2001, UCD was reported to have “submitted a detailed plan to the Dublin Transportation Office,” with the article reporting that UCD had claimed: “with increasing pressure on parking spaces and the surrounding road network, the situation is no longer sustainable. [...] the lack of an existing public transportation option from outlying areas has resulted in an "increasing dependence on car use"[...].”
The University Observer reached out to the NTA for comment on the situation. A Communications Officer responded, referring us to the section of the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy addressing the provision of light rail services. The Strategy states that: “The challenges associated with the upgrading of the Luas Green Line to a metro standard of service have led to the emergence of an alternative proposal which seeks to meet travel demand from south of Sandyford along a new light rail corridor which serves UCD post-2042.”
“As such, the upgrading of the Green Line to metro standard is not being pursued as part of this strategy. Instead, for this strategy period, the capacity and frequency on the current Green Line from Sandyford northwards to the city centre will be incrementally increased through the provision of additional tram fleet and services and associated turnback arrangements to meet forecast passenger demand.”
The Strategy also states: “On the existing Red and Green Lines, there is limited potential for
new stops. However, the NTA and TII will explore options for additional tram stops where demand for travel is identified.” For more information on the NTA’s Strategy, visit nationaltransport.ie to view a PDF copy of the The Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area, 2022-2042.
UCD has been consistent in its calls for an extension to include the Belfield campus, but these have yet to materialise. Logistical and financial challenges mean that planning, design, construction, and the associated legal process could take two decades. The lack of a direct Luas service to campus leaves many students reliant on Dublin Bus, which has experienced staffing shortages, coupled with software issues hampering the accuracy of real-time passenger information. Dublin Bus acknowledged that these staffing issues were expected to place a strain on its service provision capacity last year, as reported in Dublin Live. Many UCD students live outside the areas served by direct routes to campus (e.g., the 39a, 46a, 145 routes). This requires a substantial proportion of students to take two or three buses just to get to class.
One student who commutes from North Dublin informed the University Observer that their daily journey can take lengthy periods of time, stating: “it depends on the time you leave too, 3-5pm it’ll take (you) almost 2 hours, any other time 1 hour and thirty mins [sic].” Another student claimed to travel over 2 hours from Kildare each day, and another almost the same length from Lucan. One source stated that they travelled up to 3 hours a day from Offaly.
A lack of public transport infrastructure, coupled with a housing crisis, forces many students to travel long distances in order to obtain a University education, as many cannot afford Dublin rents. This compounds the socioeconomic disadvantages experienced by students from rural backgrounds, making a quality education less accessible to those from beyond the Dublin commuter belt.
According to Census data on the student population obtained by the Central Statistics Office, car travel overtook other modes of transport as the most common travel option for students during the 30 year period between 1986 and 2016. The CSO found that 17% of Third-Level students nationally have to travel for over an hour each day, based on data dated to 2016. Ireland’s increased reliance on cars over the previous number of decades carries broad implications with respect to air quality, climate change, and sustainable transport options. It also carries social implications regarding the potential adverse impact of lengthy commuter journeys on students’ mental health, social life, academic studies, and extracurricular activities.
The greater Dublin area currently struggles to provide its population of over 2 million with efficient, reliable, and sustainable public transport options. Many commuters, including students, rely on cars to travel to work or college. Long traffic times carry environmental, social, and ecological implications. Many students rely on limited bus and Luas services, and often have to change two or three times over the course of their journey to campus. With the extension of the Luas green line service not anticipated to come to fruition until 2042 (in tandem with Dublin Bus experiencing a severe staffing shortage), many students who live beyond the direct bus routes, and outside of county Dublin, are adversely impacted by Dublin’s poor public transport infrastructure.
UCDSU has repeatedly campaigned on this issue, hosting a commuter town hall last semester, and calling for greater investment in public transport in numerous policy submissions to the Government over the years. To have your voice heard on this important matter of public policy, be sure to vote in the next elections, and participate in surveys and public consultations made available to student commuters.