Saturday 23 September 2017

'We can't guarantee customers will come back when Luas works are finished' - Dublin city businesses form alliance

Luas works on Parnell St Credit: Noel Dunne
Luas works on Parnell St Credit: Noel Dunne
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

A number of traders in Dublin city centre have formed an alliance in protest over the negative impact the ongoing Luas works has had on their business.

Stephen Troy of Troy's Family Butchers on Moore St is acting as spokesperson for the group of at least 12 firms located on Moore St and Parnell St in Dublin 1.

According to Stephen, the majority of the businesses involved - including his own - have reported up to 40pc of downturn since the Luas works began some three years ago.

"Our businesses are struggling to survive the impact of the works," Stephen told independent.ie.

"We were told in 2014 that the short term nature of the project would outweigh the negative impact. There's nothing short-term about three years".

Stephen said that he has been in correspondence with the Luas representatives and their contractors over the last three years, communication that became more earnest when his business flooded in 2014.

Luas works on Parnell St Credit: Noel Dunne
Luas works on Parnell St Credit: Noel Dunne

"Luas workers turned off water and put it back on at excessive pressure which burst a pipe at the back of the shop causing substantial damage to my equipment," he said. 

"Expensive refrigerated units were written off which lead to a huge insurance claim which in turn meant my business insurance premium tripled".

Well known stores including Cycleways, the Kingfisher, FX Buckleys and Centra in Parnell St are all participating in this alliance in an attempt to get their concerns hears - and for possible compensation for loss of earnings.

While Stephen acknowledges that Luas operatives are working "full steam ahead" since January to get the works completed, he believes this is only leading to further diversions for potential customers. The Dublin 1 business alliance is also concerned that their customer base will never recover to what it was before Luas works began.

"The reality is that customers will start creating a new shopping trend, a new habit. If you've to walk 300 yards up a street and then walk back on yourself, you're not going to do that," said Stephen.

"This won't automatically change back as soon as the Luas works are done."

The owner of the Centra store, located on the corner of Parnell Street, Noel Dunne said that he has seen a decrease in footfall of 25pc year-on-year and an annual slump in sales of 15pc - despite "huge investment into the new-look store" which includes the introduction of 'Frank and Honest' coffee.

"We've had to let two people go - one from the shop floor and one from the deli - as we just can't afford to keep them on," Noel told independent.ie.

"To be be down on sales and footfall having investing this sort of money is frightening. We have no guarantee that the customers we have lost are going to come back; the long-term damage is going to be even worse than that's happening even. We can't evaluate that impact and that''s the most frightening thing."

Like Stephen, Noel maintains that similar in Abbey Street have not recovered their business strength when the Luas works were finished in that area.

"I really appreciate the investment the Dublin City Council are putting into the city. The Luas is a great asset and well needed but there's really a better way of handling this and they need to be aware of that," he said.

"If they were looking to do something like this again, wouldn't it be great to have the support of traders and public alike?"

An extract from An Pleanala's Railway Order states that it has the authority to carry out the Luas works, "including non-negligent disruption to businesses".

In granting the Railway Order, it "accepted that the long-term benefits of the scheme would outweigh the short-term impacts during construction"; and "the construction phase of the scheme would result in some significant disruption in the city centre" and "such impacts were an inevitable consequence of the scale and nature of the project".

"The Luas Cross city project is on schedule to have passenger services in December of this year," Director of Communications, Luas Cross City, Grainne Mackin said.

"It is anticipated to carry an additional 10 million passengers per annum, linking with key North and South city shopping districts with a tram travelling every 90 seconds over O'Connell Bridge during peak morning and evening times."

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