MOTORISTS could be banned from driving through the heart of Dublin under radical new plans, it emerged yesterday.
Only buses and taxis would be allowed to use roads around College Green such as O’Connell Street, Westmoreland Street and Dame Street if the scheme gets government backing.
Oireachtas transport committee chairman Frank Fahey TD revealed the plan could be in place by next April. Other cities such as Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford are also likely, after that date, to make moves to ban private cars from key central arteries.
The Dublin overhaul would include 350 extra buses servicing the area every three minutes at peak times.
The proposal would see private vehicles diverted with the use of two new bridges across the Liffey.
There would be a temporary bridge at Macken Street, and another at either Hawkins Street or Marlborough Street, to keep traffic from the car-free zone.
The idea has won the backing of Dublin Chamber of Commerce. However, the capital already faces major disruption due to transport 21 projects such as extending Luas lines.
Mr Fahey said the move represented a way out of gridlock in the heart of the capital.
“This is a workable plan. We decided that reliable efficient bus transport can effectively deal with traffic congestion in the sort term in Dublin and the other four cities as well.
“We can’t expect people to change to buses unless the buses have priority,” Mr Fahey said.
He intends to press Transport Minister Noel Dempsey to push through the work needed.
“Too much time is taken at the moment in negotiating and consulting with a public that often times doesn’t want to change,” he said.
Mr Fahey said bus speeds in the centre of Dublin were now reduced to 3km per hour.
The report is to be considered by Mr Dempsey next week and the Oireachtas committee will then consider ways to ease traffic congestion in the four other cities by making their centres car-free.
Environment Minister and Green leader John Gormley would not be drawn on the plan.
“What I would like to see is a city centre that is pedestrian and cycle-friendly. You can do that by slowing down the traffic and having considerably more areas which are traffic free. My ideal would be a city similar to Copenhagen where you have it cycle and pedestrian-friendly and you have 34% of journeys to and from work by bike.
“We have increased cycling here over the past year but we could do a lot more. We are now about to introduce new legislation for the new Dublin Transport Authority,” he said.
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