Wednesday 24 April 2019

All roads lead to Phoenix Park, just don’t drive

Those driving to see Pope could be turned back at M50

Pope Francis (PA)
Pope Francis (PA)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Pilgrims who insist on driving to see Pope Francis in the Phoenix Park could find themselves turned back at the M50.

Gardaí are warning Dublin could grind to a standstill during the papal visit, unless tens of thousands of people change their travel plans.

Around 500,000 people have tickets to attend an open-air Mass in the Phoenix Park on Sunday, August 26 - but there are just 20,000 spaces at park and ride facilities.

In a bid to encourage people onto public transport, all buses, trains and trams within the city perimeter will be free.

An exclusion zone for private cars will stretch from O'Connell Bridge in the city centre to the M50, in order to leave the maximum space for pedestrians and buses to manoeuvre.

Garda Superintendent Tom Murphy said: "I just want to emphasise at every opportunity, do not use the car for the event."

Those hoping to see the Pope in the Phoenix Park were asked to indicate their likely method of travel when applying for tickets.

The Irish Independent understands the numbers planning to use a car is tens of thousands above what is manageable.

Supt Murphy confirmed there is "insufficient capacity" for cars, adding: "I don't want to see people being disappointed by being turned away from the M50 and not being allowed into the event.

"Please, please use the public transport and private coach facilities."

The movement of cars in some parts of the city close to Phoenix Park will be "completely cut out" on the day.

The World Meeting of Families takes place in the RDS from August 21-26. Gardaí say disruption in the Ballsbridge area during that period will be similar to what occurs during the Dublin Horse Show.

The highlight will be the arrival of Pope Francis on Saturday, August 25. He will move around the city in the famous Popemobile, attending a civic reception in Dublin Castle and visiting the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People on Bow Street.

Rolling road closures will occur as gardaí ensure he is not delayed by normal weekend traffic.

On Saturday evening the Pope will attend a concert in Croke Park, which organisers say will be similar in size to an All-Ireland final.

However, it is the main event in the Phoenix Park which is creating the biggest challenge for gardaí and transport chiefs.

A number of "controlled zones" will be enforced from 6am-11pm, blocking off normal traffic south of the N2, north of the Grand Canal, west of O'Connell Bridge and east of the M50.

While getting the crowds to the Phoenix Park in time for Mass is a major logistical operation, most concern centres on ensuring everybody leaves safely.

Supt Murphy said it will be the equivalent of getting seven times the capacity of Croke Park to exit simultaneously.

"It's a mammoth amount of people trying to come out at the same time. We want people to take the same route home that they came in.

"Please do not try to take short-cuts or listen to any local knowledge about short-cuts. Use the route that you came in and you'll get back safely," he said.

Gardaí estimate that from the time the Mass ends, until people reach their transport hub, could take "anything from two up to four hours".

Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Luas have rostered on all available staff to deal with the huge numbers they are expecting.

But gardaí warned that there will be long queues and patience will be required.

Residents and members of the business community in the areas affected are also being asked to show some forbearance for the two days.

A business and community liaison team has been appointed to communicate with those who are directly affected.

Locals will receive a package of information through the post in the coming weeks. A number of residential briefings is also being planned.

Separate information sessions are being scheduled for businesses and plans are being developed to transport workers.

Irish Independent

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