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‘Can you not get a lift?’: An Irish solution to Dublin Airport’s transport problem

Things are very hard to achieve when you don’t actually do them. Inaction is quite the obstacle

Seven years ago, I watched with wonder as my bags were checked in at an airline desk in a train station in central Hong Kong, leaving me free to enjoy the city for the day until I later got a high-speed train to the airport, luggage-free, boarding pass already in hand.

“It’s like living in the future!” I remarked, my mind blown by the rare instance of a travel “innovation” actually providing convenience rather than adding hassle.

The airport express train took 24 minutes to travel a 35km trip. But let’s not over-glorify this convenience. Hong Kong has issues slightly greater than how quickly one’s baggage can get on a plane. Dublin Airport, meanwhile, can only dream of such infrastructure.

Back in July 2022, the airport’s authorities alerted passengers to its long-term and short-term car parks being sold out. What has the airport done to increase capacity since? One summer later, the car parks are full again.


If you were to travel a similar distance from Hong Kong’s central district to its airport – let’s say from Straffan, Co Kildare, to Dublin Airport – your journey via public transport would involve getting the 120 to Connolly Station ( about 50 minutes to an hour), then walking to North Wall Quay to get the 784, which takes about 20 minutes to get the airport.

It’s not all bad. Let’s say you’re on the “right” side of the airport, otherwise known as not having to cross or circumvent Dublin city. Let’s take Drogheda, for example. The 100x zips to the airport in about 40 minutes, fingers crossed, which is great; the only issue is that there’s only one bus an hour.

Airports are like hospitals in that they appear to exist within a perpetual state of renovation. Unfortunately in Ireland, we’re bad at both. “Anyone without an existing [car park] booking is encouraged to consider travelling to the airport via public transport, taxi, or being dropped off by a friend or relative,” the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) said in the run-up to this bank holiday weekend. I love the tweeness of the final suggestion.

“Can you not get a lift?” the DAA spokesperson roared standing at Terminal 2′s half-door in a flour-covered apron. “Where’s your brother? Will he not spin you out?” they added, shooing the cat as Liveline blared on the speaker system. Okay, that last part didn’t actually happen, but surely we are mere days away from an #InThisTogether hashtag launched by the Department of Transport, with lines of enterprising teenagers offering a scooter-chauffeuring service from the other side of the Port Tunnel for €50 a pop.

Maybe the good people of nearby St Margaret’s could alleviate the inconvenience of the noise they’ve been dealing with under flight paths of aircraft bound for the new runway, by opening up their estate as a premium overflow car park, and watch the cash pile up.

Dreaming big only works when you wake up afterwards and get moving

From the DAA’s point of view, the “can you not get a lift?” messaging is just not going to cut it. The DAA is obviously burned from the Fyre Fest-levels of turmoil the airport experienced last year. It appears to have adopted a “don’t poke the bear” approach to dealing with a hassled public. But what’s curious about its communication is that it is not pointing out the obvious problem. The issue with travelling to Dublin Airport has little to do with them. This isn’t about planes. It’s about trains.

One thing we can park is the hyperbole. Dublin Airport is hardly the world’s worst. I find American airports confounding regarding their lack of public transport infrastructure. And how many of us have sweated in trains and buses from airports to central London?

Of course, something was done about that. The new Elizabeth line gets you from Heathrow to Paddington in under half an hour for £12.20 (the Heathrow Express to the same destination, a few minutes quicker, costs £25.)

Perhaps London and Hong Kong are bad examples. They are massive cities after all. But if you were trying to get from Manchester Airport to the central station, it’s simple. Hop on a train, and in 15 to 20 minutes, you’re there. Pre-book a ticket online, and you can make the journey for under €4. Why isn’t the DAA hammering the Government for not doing something over decades to improve public transport connectivity to Dublin Airport? The DAA can’t build a rail line.

Watch this summer as politicians have a go at the DAA for delays, inconvenienced outbound passengers and frustrated tourists, while those same kinds of politicians – and in some cases, literally themselves – sat on their hands for years and watched our capital’s public transport infrastructure fall behind city after city across Europe. Eighteen-year-olds heading to Dublin Airport to embark upon their J1 summers this year were born in 2005, the same year the MetroLink – featuring the ever-illusive rail connection to the airport – was first proposed.

In that time, we’ve seen seven ministers for transport chug by: Martin Cullen, Noel Dempsey, Pat Carey, Leo Varadkar, Paschal Donohoe, Shane Ross and Eamon Ryan.

Back in September 2021, Ryan said the idea of the Dublin MetroLink being in place by 2027 was “never likely to be achievable”. A chairde, things are very hard to achieve when you don’t actually do them. Inaction is quite the obstacle.

Dreaming big only works when you wake up afterwards and get moving.