NTA actively worked against Minister Ryan, directed removal of Luas Finglas cycle paths, despite project team disagreeing

— Campaigners urging public to respond to public consultation by 5pm today.
— NTA ordered removal of most cycle paths on 4km tram extension.
— TII “fundamentally disagree”, outlining how cycle route removal would “jeopardise and undermine” project goals.

Officials at the National Transport Authority told the Luas Finglas project team at Transport Infrastructure Ireland that they should remove sections of cycle paths from project drawings along the planned extension to the Luas green line, documents released under Freedom of Information has revealed.

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The project team, who work in Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) were told by the National Transport Authority (NTA) to remove all the cycling facilities along the route in the plans with the exception of those on Broombridge Road and St Margaret’s Road.

This is reflected in the latest public consultation drawings, meaning there are disconnected sections of cycle routes at both ends of the light rail project.

When launching the first Luas Finglas public consultation in 2020, transport Minister Eamon Ryan said: “…The government is committed to improving sustainable public transport and I am also pleased that there will be a pedestrian and cycling path along most of the route…”.

That quote from Minister Ryan was contained in a NTA press release issued to the media and Minister Ryan has also referenced the failure to provide cycle route along the orignal Luas Green Line a number of times.

Marcello Corsi, the TII project manager for Luas Finglas, told the NTA that the project team “fundamentally disagree” with the NTA on the issue, that it would bring “unnecessary risks” to the project and may “jeopardise and undermine” the “responsibility towards delivering an intrinsic and holistic ‘safe’ design”.

The main reasoning outlined is that the cycle routes would not exactly follow a new draft of the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan. IrishCycle.com understands that the GDA plan was never meant to be used to block cycle routes outside of the plan, but rather as a map of what route to give priority to.

FOI documents also show that NTA staff said in emails to each other that it was “it is best to avoid going into specifics” around the reasoning. While in other documents NTA officials state that “Case for intervention isn’t defined well” for different sections of the cycle routes that had been planned, as a new tram route should not have a continuous cycle route beside it.

In an email conversion to colleagues at the NTA in June 2021, Eoin Gillard, head of public transport investment at the authority said “Hugh doesn’t think the provision of the cycle track outside of the areas we discussed is correct in the context of the Cycle Network Plan (that was an unprompted view!)”

UPDATED 2.07pm: Around the time of publication of this article, just over an hour ago, the NTA confirmed that the Hugh mentioned is Hugh Creegan, deputy chief executive of the NTA.

IMAGE: Part of the reasoning from the NTA, as released under FOI, for telling TII not to proceed with cycle routes the full way along the tram route.

In an email on October 21, 2021, Gavin Roche, a project manager with the NTA wrote to colleagues within the NTA and stated: “Below is a draft response to Marcello on this. I think it is best to avoid going into specifics of why we don’t agree with the infrastructure proposed in the presentation…”

The draft said: “Having reviewed the proposed cycle connectivity along the route, the NTA are of the view only the sections along Broombridge Road and St Margarets Road are to be included in Luas Finglas. We acknowledge the opportunities noted in the presentation to enhance cycling and walking provision along the route, however, these are not within the scope of the Luas Finglas project.

Roche added: “Outside of Broombridge Road and St. Margarets Road you should only include walking and cycling links required to access stations and to manage interfaces with existing infrastructure. The connecting linear pathways proposed in the presentation may be noted in the consultation drawings in the form of dashed lines and as potential links to be developed by others.”

In an email to the NTA on November 3, 2021, Corsi said: “I just want to record that while this was the outcome of the meeting and TII is committed to work along those lines as requested by the NTA, myself and all the design team including our ED Barry-Egis, respectfully but fundamentally disagree with this course of action as also mentioned during the meeting.”

He said: “I personally remain convinced this has potential consequences, may bring unnecessary risks to our project, does not fully deliver on the sustainability and urban integration aspects of Luas Finglas, fails to fully address the active mobility component of the project and could have a serious impact on the 2nd NSPC [non statutory public consultation], where we had promised 60% of off-road cycle facilities in the first PC [public consultation] and we are now only delivering 20%.”

He said the initial feedback from the cycling groups from the first non statutory public consultation was very critical for not having provided a full continuous cycling facility along the entire route. And he said: “I’m concerned of the impact of this last decision on the project and the next NSPC, due to be run at the end of November, not to mention the missed opportunity for not providing this as part of a coordinated approach to active mobility on this Luas project.”

“I also have to point out that following NTA request will come at odds with the Luas Finglas Designer’s strategy (Barry-Egis-Systra Luas Finglas cycling strategy) and may therefore jeopardise and undermine their responsibility towards delivering an intrinsic and holistic “safe” design, addressing all user’s safety. This will also interfere with the Luas Finglas Designer responsibility of standing over the design proposals at oral hearing stage,” said Corsi.

He added: “Also, as we had progressed the Preliminary Design of approximately 50% of the route at this stage, including cycle facilities as per Barry-Egis-Systra strategy, this will inevitably also have a negative impact on the design programme, as a lot of the road design will have to be redone to remove the cycle elements.”

Feljin Jose, a spokesperson for the Dublin Commuter Coalition, a sustainable transport campaign group, said: “Records we received through freedom of information show that the NTA instructed TII to remove the parallel walking and cycling route from the Luas Finglas project weeks before the 2nd consultation.”

He called on members of the public who disagree with the decision, make a submission to the public consultation via luasfinglas.ie/#/register.

“Eamon Ryan often talks about why a parallel walking and cycling route wasn’t built alongside the original Luas Green Line. Now the NTA are instructing TII to deliberately make the same mistake again while he’s the minister,” said Jose.

He added: “Luas Finglas presented an amazing opportunity to do some joined up thinking which we can’t afford to lose.”

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