Transport in Dublin

This article deals with transport in the Greater Dublin Area centered on the city of Dublin in Ireland.

Sunset on the LUAS trams

Public transport

There are a number of modes of public transport in the Greater Dublin area run by a number of transport operators, most of them state or quasi-state entities. Public transport in Dublin was overseen by the Dublin Transportation Office until 2009 when the National Transport Authority replaced this body. Public transport in Dublin has undergone expansion in recent years, and the Irish Government had plans to invest heavily[1] in the system under the Transport 21 plan. However, as a result of the changed economic environment since 2008 these plans have been subject to re-assessment.

Dublin's transit system currently utilises electrified suburban trains, diesel commuter rail, trams and an extensive bus network to provide service to the population of the Greater Dublin Area.

The Loop Line in 1986 with the DART.

The Railway Procurement Agency was responsible for establishing an integrated ticketing system for use throughout Dublin City. This system was introduced on 12 December 2011 and is based on use of a pre-paid electronic card called a Leap card. The National Transport Authority is responsible for improving integration between Dublin's various public transport systems. The number of Leap card users was reported to have increased by 250,000 users to 1 million users in April 2015.[2]


1912 rail network map from the Railway Clearing House

Rail services in Dublin include the five lines of the Dublin Suburban Rail operated by Iarnród Éireann, Ireland's national railway system.[3] One of these is the electrified DART. Passenger traffic to other Irish cities is also operated by Iarnród Éireann from Connolly and Heuston stations. Heuston Station connects with the South and West (Ballina, Westport, Galway, Ennis, Limerick, Tralee, Cork and Waterford lines) and Connolly Station serves Sligo, Wexford and Belfast.

Commuter rail

Dublin rail network map

Commuter rail in Dublin operates on five lines. All commuter rail is operated by Iarnród Éireann's diesel multiple units.

An IÉ 2700 Class train entering Pearse Station

The Northern Commuter service extends from Dublin City Centre to Dundalk, the South Western Commuter service extends west from Heuston Station to stations as far as Kildare and Portlaoise, Western Commuter service extends from Dublin City as far as Maynooth and Longford and the South Eastern Commuter service runs from Gorey to Dublin city.[4] All commuter rail service runs via Dublin City Centre, and there is no orbital service of any kind.

The Western Commuter service is the most recent to have benefited from significant improvement with the March 2007 opening of the new Docklands railway station in Dublin City Centre, which has allowed for more capacity on the route, not previously possible due to overcrowding at Connolly Station.[5]

Significant improvements on the Kildare line were undertaken in 2010 which involved double tracking on the line (to four tracks) to allow local traffic to move independently of higher speed InterCity trains.[6]


A DART train, forming part of the Dublin Suburban Rail network.

The Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) is part of the suburban railway network and consists of one line and a spur running primarily along the coastline of Dublin Bay, from Greystones in County Wicklow to Howth and Malahide in northern County Dublin. The DART line is the only electrified railway in the country and over 80,000 people use it every day making it arguably Ireland's greatest public transport success story.[7]

The DART system was opened in July 1984 and, like all other rail service in Dublin, it suffers from extreme overcrowding at rush hours, but future expansion plans will increase its capacity by 40% to 30,000 passengers by 2020.[8][9]

Iarnród Éireann's plans are also on the pipeline to greatly expand the DART suburban railway network by boring a tunnel through Dublin City Centre allowing the creation of two separate DART lines. Each will run from the North-West & South-West of the city, through the city centre and then extend south and north respectively. This plan is made possible with the DART Underground rail project, boring a tunnel under the city centre that will join Heuston Station with Pearse Station and a newly constructed Docklands station, via St Stephen's Green. The railway lines from Heuston toward Kildare (Hazelhatch) and from the city centre to Maynooth will be electrified, and the old line to Navan reopened and electrified. This will allow the creation of two separate but inter-connecting DART lines: one running from the north west (Dunboyne/Maynooth) through the city-centre to the southeast (Bray); and one running from south-west (Hazelhatch) through the city centre to the northeast (Howth/Balbriggan).

Light rail

Dublin tram system

The Dublin tram system was a tram system in operation from 1865 until its closure in 1959.

Main article: Luas
Luas Tram

A two-line light rail tram network called the Luas, named after the Irish word for "speed", opened in 2004 and has proved popular in the areas it serves – although the lack of a link between the two lines is widely criticised. The Transport 21 plan calls for the joining of the two lines in the city centre as well as seven other expansion projects. It is estimated that around 90,000 people use the Luas daily.

In 2006, the Railway Procurement Agency announced that the Luas system reached profitability ahead of schedule, after only a year of operation. It is now the only mass transit in the country to operate without Government assistance, and among the few in Europe.

Currently, the two unconnected on-street light rail lines are:

Construction of an extension to the Green Line (named Luas Cross City during the construction phase), which will, when finished, link the two lines, began in June 2013 and is expected to be completed by late 2017.


Main article: Dublin Metro

As of 2006, the Dublin Metro is a planned two-line rapid transit (underground) system set out in the Irish government's 2005 Transport 21 plan.

The North line will run from St. Stephens Green to Swords via Dublin Airport and the City's Northern Suburbs, While the Metro West line will be an orbital route linking up Tallaght and Dublin Airport via Clondalkin, Lucan, Blanchardstown, Finglas and Ballymun. It will link up all the major commuter links (Rail, DART, Luas, Metro and Bus routes) that lead North, West and Southwest of the City.

On 10 November 2011 the Irish Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, announced that the Metro project was being deferred in light of its cost.


Main article: Dublin Bus

The state-owned Dublin Bus operates an extensive bus network of nearly 200 radial, cross-city and peripheral routes in the Greater Dublin Area, which constitutes the bulk of the area's public transport system. Daytime routes are identified by number and sometimes suffixed with a letter (e.g. 25, 25A, 25B) and 18 "Nitelink" overnight services which run on Friday and Saturday nights are identified by a number suffixed with "N" (e.g. 40N).

Apart from some tourist buses, all Dublin Bus' services are one-person operated, and daytime fares are determined by the number of fare stages travelled through — fares are payable in coin and only the exact fare is acceptable — if passengers overpay, they are issued "change tickets" which must be presented at the Dublin Bus office in O'Connell Street to be converted to cash. Alternatively, various pre-paid tickets and passes can be bought from Dublin Bus or its agents, and are processed by a validating machine on the right of the entrance door of the bus. Nitelink buses charge a flat fare of 5 Euro [10] regardless of the distance travelled. The Leap card, introduced in December 2011, is a smart card that can be used on Dublin Bus, DART, suburban rail services in the Dublin area and the Luas.

In addition to Dublin Bus, a number of private operators provide services to Dublin Airport from all over the city and a small number of suburban routes are also provided by independent companies.

The Real Time Passenger Information Service is being rolled out across Dublin, and provides real time estimates of bus arrivals at each stop, based on GPS locations of buses. This information can also be viewed online through the Dublin Bus website and via dedicated applications for smartphones.

Intercity routes are operated by state-owned Bus Éireann and in recent years an increasing number of private operators such as Aircoach, Irish Citylink and JJ Kavanagh & Sons.

Bus Éireann services operate largely from Busáras, the central bus station and the busiest in Ireland, near Connolly railway station which allows passengers to avail of a sheltered area whilst waiting for their bus. There are frequent departures to all over the country.

Open Top tour buses are also offered by Dublin Bus and CitySightseeing around the city, whilst a Ghost Bus Tour runs at night through some of the supposedly haunted places in the city.



Greater Dublin is directly served by several motorways. The M50 motorway, arguably the most important to the city is an intra-area thoroughfare that is a partial ring road around the southern, western, northern and north eastern edges of the city. Construction of the M50 took almost 20 years, with the final section opening in June 2005. A court case regarding the destruction of medieval ruins at Carrickmines Castle delayed the final completion of the route.

On 20 December 2006 the Port Tunnel which carries traffic from the port and onto the motorway close to the M50/M1/N52 interchange was opened as the first step of an eastern bypass to Dublin, making the M1 junctions 1 to 3 now the M50. Though originally intended to be a two-lane single-bore system catering specifically to HGV traffic, the Port Tunnel has been built to motorway standard as two separate tunnels to cater for all traffic (although HGV traffic is not tolled). The tunnels are deeper than originally planned to reduce disturbance to residential areas, and were built one kilometre longer and with more ancillary works to facilitate this. From February As of 2007, 5-axle vehicles are prohibited from travelling within the city centre cordon between 7:00 and 19:00 Monday to Sunday (unless the vehicle has obtained a valid permit for necessary deliveries from the Dublin City Council HGV website).

The M50 originally had two traffic lanes going either direction but now it has been increased it to three on the southern section, and four lanes each way between junctions on the Northern and Western sections. The National Roads Authority also increased capacity at many of the motorway's busiest junctions by building triple-grade interchanges instead of the lower capacity roundabouts and crossroads that were in place. The toll at the West-Link which caused huge tailbacks was demolished and replaced by a tag tolling system. This reduced tailbacks greatly.

M1 roundabout at Dublin Airport

The M1, M2, M3, M4, M6,M7, M8,M9, and M11 motorways all serve the Greater Dublin Area.

Orbital routes

Dublin is surrounded by what have been termed by Dublin City Council as an inner and outer orbital route. The inner orbital route runs roughly around the heart of the Georgian city from St. Stephen's Green to Mountjoy Square and from the King's Inns to St Patrick's Cathedral. The outer orbital route runs largely along the natural circle formed by Dublin's two canals, the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal, as well as the North and South Circular Roads.

Additionally, another orbital route is being developed in the west of the City, and has been completed between the N7 and the N4 which provides an alternative to the heavily congested M50. It is planned to extend this to Tallaght, and eventually Northwards to Blanchardstown, and then on to Swords in North Dublin.

The National Roads Authority has also undertaken a study into the development of another M50 style Orbital Motorway that is being termed the "Leinster Outer Orbital route". It is planned to run from Drogheda Via Navan to Naas, Thus linking the M1, M2, M3, M4, M7 and M9 and Via those routes, the M6 and M8. This will alleviate much pressure from the M50 by taking non Dublin bound traffic completely out of the Dublin Road Network, as well as providing links between Dublin's Satellite and Commuter Towns, and other parts of Leinster.

Dublin Bikes

Main article: Dublin Bikes

Dublin Bikes is a public bicycle rental scheme which has been operated in the city of Dublin since 2009. The scheme uses 450 French-made[11] unisex bicycles with a silver colour.[12] Dublin was the 17th city to begin using this scheme (predecessors include Copenhagen, Lyon, and Paris), though Dublin City Council suggested the Dublin launch was better.[12][13] The scheme is sponsored by JCDecaux.[14] Plans are currently under way to treble the number of bikes to 1,500.[15]

Car Sharing

A car sharing scheme commenced service during summer 2010. In May 2011 GoCar announced that Irish Car had invested significantly to grow the scheme to over 200 cars and vans and into new cities in Ireland. GoCar currently has 33 cars located in Dublin and Cork, with plans to launch many more bases in the near future.[16]

Water traffic


The Grand Canal at Wilton Terrace

Dublin has two major canals, the Royal Canal and the Grand Canal in the northern and southern portions of the city respectively. The canals were originally built for freight and passenger transportation from the River Liffey at Dublin to the River Shannon in western Ireland. Today, the canals, run by Waterways Ireland, are fully operable but are used only occasionally for pleasure craft.


Dublin is served by two ports which both handle a mixture of passengers and freight to and from the UK. Dún Laoghaire port to the south of Dublin and Dublin Port which is situated just outside the city centre, with a bus from Dublin Connolly connecting with the trains.

Dún Laoghaire

Dún Laoghaire harbour is situated about 13.6 km from Dublin city centre.[17] It is easily accessible by road, rail, bus and of course by sea. Four Dublin Bus routes serve the port, including one direct from Dublin Airport. The DART rail system serves Dún Laoghaire Harbour from both Malahide and Howth in the north which en route to Dún Laoghaire goes straight the city centre. It is also served from Greystones in the south.

Suspended service

Stena Line previously oerated four daily sailings from Dún Laoghaire Harbour to Holyhead in Wales by means of the Stena HSS, a high speed ferry service.[18] Sailing time was generally around 90 mins.

Dublin Port

Dublin Port is situated closer to the city centre than Dún Laoghaire Harbour. It operates up to 18 daily sailings to the UK and the continent. Locations include Liverpool, Holyhead and Birkenhead.[19] The port carried 30.9 million tonnes of goods and passengers in 2007. 19.9 million tonnes of this was made up of material being imported and 10.9 million tonnes was material for export.[20] The port also handles about 1.3 million tourists yearly.[21] The port is only minutes from Dublin city centre and is accessed by a number of Dublin Bus routes. Taxis are also an easy way to get to the port.[22]

It is likely that in the near future, a new deep-water port, Bremore Port, near Balbriggan in North Dublin will be developed to take pressure off Dublin Port, and possibly release much of its land for urban development.

Air transport

Main article: Dublin Airport
Dublin Airport Terminal 1 entrance in 2003

Both domestic and international air traffic in Dublin is served by Dublin Airport which is located 10 km north of Dublin city centre in Collinstown and is accessible by car or bus. It is the busiest airport by far in Ireland, with 19.1 million passengers in 2012,[23] making it the 23rd busiest airport in Europe with flights to other airports in Ireland, Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East. The route from London Heathrow to Dublin Airport is the 15th busiest route in the European Union.

See also


  1. "Rail major part of huge transport plan". RTÉ News. 1 November 2005.
  2. accessed on 30 December 2013
  3. Irish Rail - Iarnród Éireann - train tickets, train times, Ireland rail travel information
  4. Irish Rail - Iarnród Éireann - train tickets, train times, Ireland rail travel information
  5. "New railway station opens in Dublin city". RTÉ News. 12 March 2007.
  7. Save the Tara/Skryne(Gabhra) Valley from the destruction posed by the proposed construction of the M3 Motorway
  8. Dáil Éireann - Volume 560 - 6 February 2003 - Railway Safety Bill 2001: Second Stage (Resumed)
  11. Rosita Boland (13 June 2009). "Dublin's long-awaited wheel deal on track for September roll-out". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  12. 1 2 "2,000 join Dublin bicycle scheme". RTÉ. 13 September 2009. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  13. "Gormley hails Dublin bike scheme". The Irish Times. 13 September 2009. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  14. Andrew Phelan (14 September 2009). "Free bikes scheme is hit by vandals -- after just one day". Evening Herald. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  15. Cllrs vote to treble Dublin Bikes Scheme
  17. Google Maps
  18. Stena Line Ferry Service Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company
  19. Dublin Port Home Page
  20. Individual Article
  21. Dublin Port Company - About - Corporate Information
  22. Getting to Dublin Port
  23. Passenger Numbers at Irish Airports

External links

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