Dart+ project highly welcomed but level crossing treatments need rethink

— Consultation ends today.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: A plan, now called Dart+, to extend electrification and, with it, better rail service is most welcomed for Dublin. But Irish Rail and the National Transport Authority need a rethink on the planned replacement for level crossing.

It is unfortunately yet another time this year where the National Transport Authority’s credentials on planning for cycling can be seen as questionable or at least lacking. The Government agency is sadly going backwards on providing for cycling. The cycling message is not seeping into its public transport and wider transport planning.

The draft plans for Dart+ West towards Maynooth are flawed in terms of walking, cycling and station access once level crossings are closed. Walk and cycling should be centre stage for not just station access but local and further transport for areas like Ashtown and Dublin 15.

The current drawings provided on a page on IrishRail.ie, seem to indicate that the solution is a mix of bridges over the tracks designed mainly for pedestrians at the train stations (which don’t look good for mixing walking and cycling), and, in most cases, road bridges with footpaths but no cycle paths. Although there’s a mix of solution as outlined below, including having motorists use an underpass at Ashtown.

More detailed drawings might show that the pedestrian bridges at the stations aren’t that bad, but it’s not clear from what’s provided and these look a bit too compact to be cycling-friendly. Forcing cycling into such makes them also pedestrians unfriendly.

In any case, well-designed underpasses are far better for pedestrians and cycling because the distance needed to go below the tracks is less than the distance needed to go above the tracks and overhead wires.

Here’s an example of a well-designed underpass at a suburban train station in Utrecht in the Netherlands — it should be stressed that while this looks good, it’s fairly normal in new build or revamped Dutch train stations:

Here’s a video clip of a similar design in a more confined space:

In all cases please refer to the drawings provided on a page on IrishRail.ie, the following are just snippets.

At Ashtown a motoring and pedestrian underpass is provided. There seems to be extra space shown in this underpass which might be for cycling but — going by far sthe limited drawings provided — this space looks inadequate for cycling.

[correction: the last paragraph originally ended with the line “especially given that the Royal Canal Greenway crosses the tracks at this point”. This is of course incorrect, the greenway crosses the canal but not the tracks. It is still is an important access point for the greenway from the Navan Road area, part of Castleknock and from/to the Phoenix Park]

At Coolmine Station here’s the overview of the pedestrian bridge at the station (centre/bottom of image), with part of the motoring bridge show (top of image):

It should be possible to have a pedestrian and cycling underpass with station access go under the tracks — this of course might be more expensive but it’s up to a Government investing in cycling to see the value in good planning for cycling:

Such might be harder at Clonsilla, but it’s worth investigating the options of how it could be done even it such requires an underpass under the existing station.

If not, bridge designs must be design to accommodate walking and cycling separately, and not have the modes mixed:

Any new road bridge, such as the Barberstown Level Crossing replacement bridge should be designed to include walking and cycling paths which are segregated with barriers from the roadway:

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

5 Comments

  1. Blakestown level crossing is being closed with no replacement at all, sending pedestrians and cyclists on a 2.5km detour along a dual carriageway to get to the Royal Canal Greenway. There are paths and cycle tracks, but they are not maintained, and the motor traffic is noisy, polluting, and frequently speeding 20-40km/h above the 60km/h limit. Not a pleasant route for anybody other than drivers.

  2. Don’t think an underpass at Coolmine is a runner, as new bridge over the canal would probable
    block passage on the canal.
    Link showing current pedestrian bridge viewed from the canal
    https://goo.gl/maps/8yY6gi2ua5VGD9CfA

  3. @Declan the Street (Canal) View link you used there shows quite a lot of space. It’s clearer again if you come away from under the bridge: https://goo.gl/maps/8SoypW94R9eMzuYd7

    And remember the camera on the barge is elevated.

  4. At Ashtown the Royal Canal Greenway does not cross the tracks as stated but continues westwards between the canal and the railway line. From memory, that phase of upgrading the Greenway is intended to include a much needed cycling link from the Tolka Valley Park, through Ashtown and on to the Phoenix Park. That will be affected by the closure of the level crossing and presumably will be routed through the proposed underpass. I take it that the second light blue strip on the drawing is a cycle path.

  5. @mercianpro thanks — correction added.

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