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Groups of metal cabinets, described by some as appearing like a “mini-Stonehenge” or a “collection of milk cartons” have been springing up across Dublin city along the route of the new Luas Cross City line.
The boxes, which house electrical cabling and other equipment associated with the new tram line due to start operating at the end of this year, are causing consternation among city heritage and environmental groups.
Particular concern has been raised over the collection of cabinets at College Green where Dublin City Council plans to build a €10 million “world class” pedestrian and cycle plaza.
The five cabinets, which vary in height from 2ft to 5ft, have replaced bicycle parking on the southern corner of College Green opposite Trinity College and do not appear in the designs for the new traffic-free civic plaza submitted to An Bord Pleanála last May.
The council said the College Green design team would “explore the feasibility of alternative methods of accommodating/relocating” the utility cabinets.
However, a spokeswoman for the Luas Cross City project said all of the cabinets were necessary and could not be relocated or housed underground.
“They are all required, they each have a function, there no empty boxes.”
In addition to electricity supplies and CCTV equipment, the cabinets carry traffic control technology, and the trams’ automatic vehicle locator system.
“They need to be located very close to the junctions because they interact with the traffic signalling, so they can’t be relocated elsewhere, and they can’t be put underground because contractors need to have access to them, and it’s already very busy underground in the city centre with other conflicting services such as underground gas mains,” she said.
There were similar cabinets already in use associated with the existing Luas lines, she said, but the new cabinets were more numerous because of the greater number of junctions running through the city centre.
“Our primary focus is making sure we get the passenger services complete. Once we are up and running, maybe we can discuss options for minimising their visual impact.”
The Dublin Civic Trust has described the boxes as “appalling”.
“To have these military ranks of steel boxes on the main arterial historic streets of the city is appalling,” Graham Hickey of the Dublin Civic Trust said.
A design solution had to be found to the problem, he said.
“In the 19th-century, the Victorians used to design decorative solutions to conceal functional items. It’s astonishing that we now have to put up with something like a collection of milk cartons dumped in the street.”
Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe said other cities with tram lines did not seem to have the same “street clutter” issues.
“This hodgepodge of different boxes, all different sizes, look awful, there must surely be a better way to do this.”
Mr Cuffe said he had already contacted Transport Infrastructure Ireland about the large “poorly situated” poles which carry the overhead power lines. “I am concerned these issues are not receiving the attention they deserve but hopefully even at this late stage changes can be made.”