Tuesday 11 December 2018

Revealed: how storm exposed Luas shambles

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Paul Melia and Laura Lynott

Luas bosses were unable to restore services for 90,000 passengers after Hurricane Ophelia had passed because it had no back-up plan in place to operate the network.

Services were suspended until 9pm last night, after the roof of the Red Cow depot, where the control room is located, was damaged by storm force winds on Monday afternoon.

But the Irish Independent has learned there is no back-up control room located in an alternative facility, which would have allowed the tram system to resume operations by lunchtime yesterday, and prevented passengers from having to find alternative means of travel.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), which oversees Luas operations on behalf of the National Transport Authority, admitted it would have to provide a back-up control room in a separate location. IT sources said this could cost €2m.

While a back-up control room was available, it was also located in the Red Cow, meaning it could not be used.

"This is a valuable lesson learned," a TII spokesman said. "The lesson learned here is because of the physical infrastructure required, in case another disaster happens we need to have it in place.

"It's important that people can rely on the Luas and network and this will be corrected. There is a secondary server (control) room, but it is located in the same facility which highlights a flaw regarding one central location for all back-ups."

Servers that allow for the light-rail system to be controlled were powered down and covered on safety grounds after the roof was damaged.

Transdev, the private company that operates Luas, said it took all of yesterday to have the roof of the Red Cow depot repaired.

"The section of roof damaged is over what is known as technical rooms," a spokesperson said. "Within those rooms are Luas systems. Those systems, for example, assist with overhead power and the automatic vehicle location system.

"These are necessary to run the Luas operation. These rooms and systems are being assessed for damage and assessed in relation to possible repair. It is therefore not possible for Luas services to resume at this point."

But the situation could have been avoided had a back-up control centre been in place. While services are due to be restored from early today, questions marks surround how Luas - the most modern public transport system in the State - could be offline due to the lack of a back-up control centre.

Sources said that control rooms were provided in Sandyford and Broombridge, and while wired and fitted with the necessary technical equipment, they did not have servers in place to allow the mass-transit system to be operated.

If the Red Cow depot was seriously damaged, it would take between five and seven days to establish a back-up control room, one said.

Services on the Red and Green lines were suspended from lunchtime on Monday as the storm struck.

Christy Burke, Independent Dublin city councillor, felt there should have been "an alternative back-up" for Luas passengers provided by Transdev.

"There are a lot of people who use the Luas and I'd be concerned in particular for the elderly making their way to hospital visits," he said. "When the Luas is closed, it has a domino effect on the rest of the public transport system with fuller buses and delays and it creates great inconvenience."

Irish Independent

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