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Speech of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D., Luas Cross City Launch Saturday 9th December 2017

 

Lord Mayor, Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Today’s gathering finally answers the riddle of how many Ministers for Transport it takes to link the Luas. It seems it takes three – and we’re all here today!

As Minister for Transport I took the decision to prioritise this project. Minister Donohoe continued that good work when he succeeded me, and supported it further as Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure. And his successor, Minister Ross, brought the project to completion on time and within budget.

So we are all delighted to be here today to open Luas Cross City passenger services.

This has been a priority project for this Government. When the plan to link the two Luas lines was published in 2013 it was described in one newspaper as ‘a huge undertaking in uncharted territory’. But I believed it was worth doing and I knew we would get it right.

This project completes the missing link in the Luas network. It always made sense to join the two existing Luas lines. So today’s opening is a significant milestone in developing a properly integrated public transport network in Dublin.

The new route will make it much easier to change between Luas, Bus, Rail and Taxi. All the evidence suggests it will encourage more people on to public transport, and help to combat congestion in the city as the economy continues to grow.

It also helps us to reduce our carbon footprint. Luas Cross City will cater for over 10 million additional passenger journeys every year removing up to 1 million car journeys.

And we won’t stop there. The Government recently approved the purchase of new trams for the Luas network green line to meet growing demand.

Continued investment in public transport is a major priority for the Government. An efficient public transport network underpins our job creation agenda. It enhances competitiveness and economic growth, and improves quality of life.

We will significantly increase investment in public transport over the next four years as Ireland continues to grow. This will allow us to improve Dublin’s public transport network and develop a number of large scale projects – identified in the National Transport Authority’s Transport Strategy - such as Metro North and the DART Expansion Programme.

These projects - together with a revamped city bus network under the BusConnects programme - will combat congestion and provide more seats on public transport.

The most important thing in transport policy is to plan properly for the long-term public transport needs of our cities and connect our communities.

We need something that is competitive, sustainable, and which improves quality of life.

The Government’s National Planning Framework is being finalised and will guide national, regional and local planning up to 2040. This matters because it will help us to develop long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability.

The forthcoming 10-year Capital Plan will be aligned with this new framework. It will help us to reinforce Ireland’s shift to a low-carbon economy and achieve our climate change objectives.

We want to integrate land use and transport infrastructure planning.

We also want to move towards sustainable and co-ordinated investment, instead of the piecemeal development of the last boom.

Twenty years ago there were many articles published about how the Luas would not work and how the two lines could never be connected. One of my distinguished predecessors even went out on Dawson Street one Sunday morning at dawn with a measuring tape and ruler to see if it could be done! Around 15 years ago the headline in one paper proclaimed ‘the stark raving lunacy of LUAS’.

Having seen the massive success of LUAS – and all the benefits it has brought – no one is saying that now. It proves that the only way to convince people that something is not impossible is by going out and doing it. There might be a valuable lesson there for all of us.

Look at all the things achieved in the last five years when we had little or no money, notwithstanding Luas Cross City: Páirc Uí Chaoimh, new emergency departments in Kilkenny and Limerick hospitals, the National Gallery extension, the National Sports Campus, the Greenways, and lots more besides. Now imagine what we can do in the next ten, when we do have the money and the plan.

Every analysis shows that Luas Cross City will bring huge benefits to this city, including to businesses in the city centre and along the route. It enhances the image of Dublin as a shopping, tourist, residential and business destination which is good news for investment and the economy. It’s good for society as well.

So, to conclude, I want to acknowledge and thank the city centre businesses and members of the public for their cooperation over the last few years during the building phase.

I also want to congratulate all those involved in the project – the National Transport Authority, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Dublin City Council, the contractors, Dublin Bus, and all responsible for delivering this project on time and within budget.

Your success gives us every confidence as we make ambitious plans for the future.

Thank you.