A car ban in Dublin is an easy solution but the reality is alot more difficult

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There were claims made last week that plans to restrict cars in Dublin city centre will hit businesses. Does forcing cars out of the city centre enhance city life or do we need to differentiate between the commuter and the shopper?

Track laying has started on Dublin’s O'Connell St and College Green is no longer accessible to private cars between 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday as part of the new cross-city Luas services which is going to cost tax payers €368 million. Many of the city’s car parks will have access problems during the construction thus making them all but unusable.

The benefits of the cross-city Luas line will be immense when construction finishes in 2017 (provided it finishes on time). As well as connecting the existing red and green lines the new line will enable passengers to travel from Stephen's Green to Cabra. The line will also have a stop at the new DIT Campus in Grangegorman which will have more students than UCD when all the existing DIT colleges converge there. This will transform a part of the north inner city which has been blighted by decay and under-investment for years.

But what about the city centre traders? What about their right to conduct their business? As someone who has operated retail and catering businesses in the city over the last 30 years, I have been through my fair share of road works and I can tell you it is not pleasant.

When the Harcourt St Luas line was being built over a period of about three years, every single retail business on the street closed, never again to open. None of these businesses received a penny in compensation and were left to fail. When the Luas works were built in the IFSC, they too went on for about three years. The track must have been dug up and re-laid about 20 times.

"Can you imagine if the city council decided they were going to re-open Grafton St to traffic? There would be an outcry... and rightly so."

Our sales in the shop in Mayor St declined by 50% during the construction phase. More recently on Dawson St, we closed the Insomnia shop once construction began but we were fortunate enough to have a break in the lease as it would not have survived the disruption which has already being going on for about two years.

I don’t want to come across as a moaner - I welcome progress and I welcome a car-free portion of the city for the benefits of tourism, night-life and retail - but we seem to make it a very difficult proposition for traders. Have you ever noticed there is rarely construction at night or at the weekend like you see in other cities? Even if it costs more we should be prepared to build in a way that minimises the disruption. I don’t think there are many residents left living in the likes of O’Connell St and Dawson St. 

We are faced with a dilemma. We need to improve the city centre offer to be able to compete with the out-of-town centres but we must do it in a way that allows businesses to trade. We must differentiate between commuters and shoppers and we must also remember that a vibrant city centre is about much more than just retail.

To put it in context - can you imagine if the city council decided they were going to re-open Grafton St to traffic? There would be an outcry... and rightly so.

Keep shopping in town and let's Win Back Our High Streets! 

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