All aboard the €368m Luas Cross City as it gears up to open in time for Christmas
Christmas shoppers can experience an open Dublin like never before when Luas Cross City begins operations in just seven days.
The revamped network will open up pockets of the city, providing a high-speed link between major shopping and business centres in both the city centre and suburbs, and link the capital's transport network.
The Irish Independent took a trip on the new €368m service, which runs from St Stephen's Green to Broombridge, a distance of 6km. There are 13 new stops, and the journey takes 21 minutes.
What's most noticeable is that the service shares space with cars, trucks and cyclists, which forces drivers to be especially vigilant. Luas driver team leader and incident manager Philip Eyre says it presents challenges, but public reaction has been positive.
"There are sections where your awareness is heightened but we're getting a positive reaction. They're all trying to get on when we stop. You get the thumbs up and they're all becoming more aware of us."
The system links with the existing green line at St Stephen's Green with Irish Rail services to Sligo and Maynooth at Broombridge, and with the Red Line at O'Connell Street.
Head of public transport capital projects at Transport Infrastructure Ireland Paolo Carbone said the project was not without difficulty.
"The biggest constraint was to keep the city alive for work, play, university and so on," he said. "It was complex work. Businesses would have loved us to work at night, but hotels had a different view."
The Phibsborough stop is in an old railway cutting and is 'old style', he says, whereas nearby Cabra is modern.
The pier to connect the terminus with Broombridge train station will be in place "within weeks", he added.
Senior lecturer in transport planning at DIT Dave O'Connor says the importance of the project cannot be overstated.
"The idea of linking up the network is phenomenally important," he said.
"It will allow you transfer across the city, and it opens up the network. A lot of our public transport is based on the bus, and Luas has been good for that, because it brought in priority measures to protect it (Luas) from congestion, which has also provided bus priority."
Each 43-metre tram carries some 300 people, the equivalent of taking up to 230 cars off the road.
Longer 55-metre trams enter service next year, and will provide 20pc more capacity.
Initially, services will run from St Stephen's Green to Parnell every three to six minutes, and between Parnell and Broombridge every 10-15 minutes, increasing to four to six minutes as services ramp-up. Inbound services from Broombridge will be every 15 minutes, which will also increase.
Head of public affairs at Dublin Chamber Graeme McQueen said the line has "massive potential" to help grow business, while Joe Dowling, from community group Hope, says it will open up the inner-city to shoppers and tourists.
"It's going to bring a lot of employment into the area. There's a lot of heritage here, and it will be very handy for tourists. I was born in the community, I remember the tram lines. This is like Christmas. It's a great boost."