— Planning started in 2012, project approved in 2017, but to be delayed again by 9 months or more.
— Delay due to changes ordered by NTA, removal of Irish Water from the project, re-deployment of staff to COVID team.
A Dublin City Council plan to keep people cycling safe while major construction works are on-going on the Clontarf cycle route sets to be changed because the National Transport Authority says bus users will be impacted.
The planned Clontarf cycle route starts at Connolly Station at Amiens Street and goes via North Strand and Fairview before connecting to the S2S cycle route in Clontarf.
Pre-COVID, North Stand Road has the second highest volumes of people cycling into the city centre, only surpassed by the volume of people cycling into the city via the Rathmines Road.
Before it was overruled, the city council’s traffic management plan would have been in line with international best practices for keeping cycling safer and easing traffic congestion by making cycling an attractive alternative during the construction phase of the project. Now cycling will be mixed with buses, taxis and construction traffic.
Kevin Baker, chairman of the Dublin Cycling Campaign said: “The construction traffic management plan would have instantly provided much needed safety improvements along North Strand. It’s frustrating to see the NTA change their mind at the last minute to prioritise other things above the safety of people cycling.”
On the changes to the project’s traffic management plan, a spokesperson for the National Transport Authority (NTA) said “cyclists will continue to use those bus lanes as they currently do” — the NTA did not directly respond to questioning on how it looks as if the NTA is choosing bus passenger convenience over road safety around construction work and the justification for such.
The project will now be delayed likely at least by six months after the National Transport Authority ordered elements of the project to be redesigned, and the removal of Irish Water from the project.
In a statement issued by Dermot O’Gara, head of public affairs at the National Transport Authority, the authority said: “Dublin City Council submitted a business case for the Clontarf to City Centre Cycle Scheme to the NTA in June, along with updated design information. The cost of the scheme had increased significantly from earlier estimates and it was appropriate for the NTA and the City Council to review the scheme details with a view to optimising the cost of the project.”
Councils have now a process to notify utility companies of planned works to avoid repeated digging up of roads. As part of this process, Irish Water pipe replacement works had been bundled with the cycle project, but with unresolved issues, of costs and the priority of the works, the NTA is looking to remove the Irish Water element of the project.
If you value our journalism, please subscribe today.
On this, the NTA said: “Arising from that review process, the extent of utility works has been reduced, the quantum of full road reconstruction (as opposed to lower cost resurfacing of the existing road) has decreased and the cost of certain footpath works have been reduced. In addition, the time period of construction is now likely to be lower, which benefits all users of the corridor.”
“In relation to bus services, the proposal submitted envisaged the temporary removal of outbound bus services between the city centre and Fairview, to be diverted instead through Ballybough. This would have had a major impact on bus users within the diverted section, with effectively only one-way bus services operating through the diversion area. Working with the City Council, an alternative approach was developed, whereby inbound and outbound bus lanes continue to be provided along the scheme length throughout its construction period, and cyclists will continue to use those bus lanes as they currently do,” the NTA said.
The authority said: “The City Council will be submitted the finalised updated information to the NTA shortly and, following formal approval by the NTA, it is expected that a request for tenders to construct the project will issue before year end.”
However, after talking to sources with knowledge of project delay, IrishCycle.com understands the delay to the project is likely to be 9 months or more.
This year IrishCycle.com has been investigating the delays to cycle routes which already have planning permission. As part of this investigation, on June 22, Dublin City Council said that the Clontarf route was proposed to commence construction in January 2021 with completion between Q4 2022 and Q1 2023. This will now be delayed further given that construction tendering has not commenced and such tendering can take six months or more.
In July, Dublin City Council said: “This project has been slightly delayed due to resourcing of the DCC project team due to COVID-19 impacts, a significant redesign of the drainage for the scheme. This redesign has taken considerable time and is still being finalised and agreed with all stakeholders. The agreement phase on each aspect of the project can take a number of iterations. These include new connection agreements with Third Parties for example.”
In an update this week from Dublin City Council management to councillors, officials said: “DCC Project Team had anticipated tendering for and appointing a contractor in Q4 of 2020 and commencing construction works in Q1 2021. However, for a number of reasons this target will not now be met.”
“A business case had been prepared for the project and this was submitted to the National Transport Authority (NTA) for discussion and funding approval in June 2020. Following engagement with the NTA and other stakeholders in recent weeks, there have been a few outcomes that will have an impact on the project programme,” the council said.
On the traffic management plan, the council said: “The NTA have not approved the proposed traffic management plan for the construction phase. It is required that a traffic management plan be agreed with all stakeholders prior to the appointment of a contractor so that the maximum space can be provided to the contractor to complete the works as quickly as possible.”
It continued: “The NTA have not agreed to the diversion of a number of outbound buses during the works and instead have requested that outbound buses be permitted through the works. This is to be achieved by removing the proposed temporary cycle lanes proposed, so that cyclists will be required to use the bus lanes during the construction works. Consequently, a revised traffic management plan must now be prepared and agreed with the various stakeholders within DCC and then presented to the NTA for approval.”
The council also said that a 50mm level difference between the footpath and cycle track had previously been specified and agreed. But it said that after recent discussions in relation to accessibility requirements, “the NTA has now requested that the level difference between the footpath and the cycle track be increased from 50mm to 60mm. Although this may seem like a minor change, due to the complexity of the scheme, this change will have knock-on effects on the design of construction elements such as earthworks and drainage, as well as requiring an update in the complex 3D model that has been developed for the contractor.”
On the Irish Water issue, the council said: “Because of the scale of the project, a substantial amount of water mains replacement had been included in the designs, as it was considered best-practice in terms of value for money, climate change considerations (minimising energy and waste costs), and also not to allow a situation where further disruption along the route would be required in the near future. However, discussions with Irish Water regarding proportionate funding of water main replacement works failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Therefore, it has been requested by the NTA to de-scope all water main renewals from the project apart from unavoidable water main diversions necessitated by the remainder of the project infrastructure. This will require design revisions”
On this, the council added: “A knock-on effect of de-scoping the water main renewal works is that the drainage infrastructure will need to be redesigned, as some of it was proposed in locations where existing water mains were to be removed. As these mains will now be remaining in situ, affected drainage infrastructure will need to be relocated.”
The council said that the changes will require it to revise the business case for the project and that this document will then need to be resubmitted to the NTA for review and approval.
Officials said that in addition to the requested changes from the NTA, the council’s own parks section wants the proposed Fairview Park esplanade narrowed from 4m to 2.5m due to “the need to protect the mature trees on either side of the esplanade”.
The council said: “The tree roots are very close to the surface and as the ground has never been trafficked before, the Parks Division were concerned that the combination of the 4m wide esplanade and its associated public lighting infrastructure could potentially cause the trees to decay and die in the years after construction of the esplanade.”
Overall, the city council added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has also resulted in a reduction in the number of DCC staff working on the Clontarf to City Centre project team in Dublin City Council, as staff have been re-deployed to work on delivering the Covid Mobility Measures. In addition to the above, NTA approval to proceed to tender stage will be clarified in the next two months.”
UPDATED: An update from council officials sent to councillors has been added to the article. The standfirst has also been edited and the likely delay has been updated from 6 months or more to 9 months or more.