“Luas” is the Irish word for speed. It is the name given to the Dublin tram system, which was anything but speedy in its construction.
It is identical to the system in Bordeaux, which was completed much more quickly, much more cheaply, and with much greater regard for not destroying streetscapes. (Anyone who has travelled in Bordeaux will know what an excellent system the city has).
However, after its long years of construction and the countless inconveniences the work caused to Dubliners, the Luas now provides a good service at a (relatively) cheap price. Having an independent operator, it is not beset by the problems which weigh heavily upon the services operated by the much more expensive Irish Rail network.
Irish Rail are required to bear the costs of keeping open the lines from Ballybrophy to Limerick and from Limerick Junction to Waterford. There are two trains a day in each direction on both of the lines. There are two shifts a day for the signalmen. The cost per passenger is reckoned to be €500-€700 per journey, it would be cheaper for each passenger to be transported by taxi from door to door. I knew no-one who would have travelled from Ballybrophy to Limerick, or to Roscrea or Nenagh, the towns in between by train, if they did not drive, they would catch a coach operated by the cheap and efficient JJ Kavanagh.
The Luas might not have the historic burden of costs, but it does seem to have a current burden of staff protocols.
Catching a tram into the city in order to go to Lansdowne Road for a rugby match, I stood in a crowded carriage.
Two ticket collectors came along checking tickets and the plastic pre-pay travel cards used by most local people. A few metres from where I stood, two seats were empty. Someone had been sick on the floor earlier in the day, and it looked dry, but who wants to sit beside congealed vomit?
The two ticket collectors contemplated the yellow mess and one of them took out a radio and spoke into it with the sort of gravitas one would expect in an emergency situation.
“This is a slip hazard,” the other ticket collector said, “we will have to clear the tram.”
At the next stop, they announced that we all had to “de-tram.” With an air of authority, they walked through the carriages telling everyone to get off.
A lady in her eighties looked at me and said, “in my day you would have just poured some salt over it.”
We all crowded onto the platform and the tram left.
It was probably a slip hazard, for anyone stupid enough to sit with their feet in stale vomit, but what would have been the logical thing to have done? It would have been for one of the officious pair to have stood beside the seat and to have advised people not to sit there. Dozens people could then have completed their journey without having to crowd aboard the next tram to arrive, which was itself, of course, already crowded.
The Luas seems to be slipping into the old ways.