Northern Ireland

Dublin City Council plans car-free zone in city centre

Dublin City Council has published images on its website of what the area in front of Trinity College could look like if the car-free zone is implemented Image copyright Dublin City Council
Image caption Dublin City Council has published images on its website of what the area in front of Trinity College and Bank of Ireland could look like if the car-free zone is implemented

Dublin City Council has proposed that cars be banned from key streets in a radical transport plan to make the city more cycle and pedestrian friendly.

Parts of central Dublin look like a noisy giant construction site, as workmen with diggers busily install a new tram line for the Luas service.

The completed line will take up road space, so a car-free zone is planned.

The council is suggesting that the area around College Green, opposite Trinity College, should be car and taxi-free.

Only public transport, cyclists and pedestrians will be allowed to use what will be changed into a plaza-type civic space.

Image caption Construction is already under way at College Green as a new tram line for Dublin's light rail transit system - the Luas - is being installed

With more than 40,000 new cars expected on the city's roads over the next few years, Dublin City Council official Brendan O'Brien said radical measures are needed that may end up affecting taxis.

"About 20,000 taxis use that area per day," he said. "And that's a huge number. So, what's being proposed is that the area should be served by public transport - bus, tram, cycling and pedestrian.

"And taxis shouldn't be allowed to use it over the 24 hours."

'Livelihood'

A public consultation period on the plan ended in August but taxi drivers insist they want to continue to be allowed to use College Green.

Image caption Taxi drivers are concerned they may be banned from one of their busiest pick-up points in the city centre
Image caption Taxi driver Joe Burke said the car-free zone plan would affect his livelihood

Taxi driver Joe Burke bases himself in the area.

"We're in Foster Place at the moment," he said. "People come to Foster Place to get a taxi around the city. But if we're not here they're either going to start walking or get a bus. So, it definitely will affect our livelihood."

But how might the proposed car restrictions affect the livelihoods of city centre stores and shops?

50,000 jobs

That is the concern of the retailers' representative body, Dublin Town.

Richard Guiney, its chief executive, welcomed the city council's vision for the future but said more detail is needed.

"For us, the priority is how do we maintain access to the car parks. There are 30,000 jobs reliant on the retail sector and another 20,000 on the hospitality sector in the city centre. So, access to those car parks is vitally important as is access to hotels for taxis," he added.

Image caption Retailers' representative Richard Guiney welcomed the idea of a car-free zone but wants more information on how it would operate

Everybody acknowledges the new Luas line will inevitably change car usage in the city centre.

The early indications from the consultation process are that about 75% of those who took part generally support the proposal, which it is hoped will come into effect at different stages over the next few years.

The BBC sampled opinion on the streets and the results echoed the indications of the public consultation.

'Magic ideas'

One woman, a non-driver and daily bus user, told me the city centre is "always clogged up because of traffic" so she is in favour of it.

Another said: "It's probably a good idea that will keep the traffic flowing."

However, one man disagreed, saying people have to live and work and that "magic ideas are all fine and well but do they work? That's the main thing".

If - as expected - the proposals to largely remove cars from part of the city centre gets the go-ahead from elected councillors, the measures will be implemented over the next seven years.