Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The sounds of the Luas Red Line

The Luas - Dublin's light rail or tram system - is only a decade old, yet it is now deeply embedded in the life of the city centre.

It features in all of my crime novels so far. The "network" (I use the term very loosely) currently has two disconnected lines, reflecting the disconnected thinking at the time they were planned and built.

Here's a bit from Another Case in Cowtown in which private eye Moss Reid describes how a middle-class chef character is looking down on a working-class pot-washer (aka a "dish pig") from Tallaght:

"(The chef guy) was a Green Line man, while Tallaght was strictly Red Line. The Red and Green Lines of the Luas system were the latest way to carve up Dublin, the new equivalent of the city’s old Northside-Southside divide. Red and Green, dividing classes and divvying out the snobbery and stereotypes: along tram lines. Or as one commuter said on the TV the other night, 'On the Green Line everyone reads their newspaper on their iPads. On the Red Line everyone reads the floor'."

Perhaps the Red Line and the Green Line are named after warzones on the Gaza Strip or something – and Dubliners sometimes refer to it as the “Daniel Day (Luas)”. There must be a trainspottery video of it out there somewhere...

Since the Red Line opened in 2004 the silver Citadis trams have become part of the landscape and everyday life in Stoneybatter and Smithfield. The Luas has changed the soundscape of the city centre too, with...
  • The chime of its warning bell (presumably an electronic sound file rather than a physical bell)
  • The horn which the driver can also use (but more rarely)
  • The boop noise when the doors open or close
  • A more vague background noise – a ringing slither as it slides across the rails, or the slight grinding sound when it takes a corner
  • The curt announcements of the talking ticket machines: “Please take your ticket”
  • And last but not least, the announcements inside the carriage

The line in this part of the city centre goes across the bridge from Heuston Station past the Ashling Hotel and on to Collins Barracks (the Museum stop), Smithfield and the Four Courts. Then it's on to Jervis, Abbey Street, Busaras and Connolly Station, or it branches on to the Financial Services Centre and the docklands, ending up at the Point.

For some strange reason, around 90% of road vehicle / tram collisions happen on the Red Line, and more than 60% of collisions happen in the stretch of the Red Line between Heuston and Connolly stations, with the Benburb Street stretch in Stoneybatter being a particular blackspot. Cue the official safety video...