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Cautious welcome for transport plan

Wednesday, 15th May, 2019 5:07pm

A “complete mindset change” will be needed by city councillors if Cork’s new transport plan is to be delivered, a leading economist has said.

Dr Frank Crowley from UCC Business School has said the proposed €3.5 billion Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) will involve a “significant change” in order for it to work after it was published this week by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

The long-awaited proposal includes a €1 billion Luas-style system for the city, a 700 per cent increase in bus lanes from 14 to 100km citywide, new train stations and investments in roads and cycling infrastructure.

Developed by the NTA in conjunction with Cork City Council, Cork County Council, and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the plan aims to greatly enhance transport in Cork, which is expected to see a population growth of between 50 and 60 per cent by 2040 according to the NTA.

Dr Crowley said attitudes like last year’s opposition to the bus corridor on Patrick’s Street would be one of the “main stumbling blocks” in implementing the plan.

“We know the challenges that came with allocating just 200 metres of a bus corridor on Patrick’s Street, and that experience haunts us,” he said.

“There needs to be a complete mindset change, particularly from the councillors in Cork City Council. The plan is completely reliant on the politics of City Hall and the ability of our councillors to accept that these plans will derail car space in the city - that is the trade-off for a better functioning Cork.”

Speaking at Tuesday’s launch event at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, NTA Chief Executive Anne Graham said the plan was “all about choice”.

“If people want to have a reliable service, we have to deliver increased priority for buses. That’s challenging, it’s not easy to do, and there’s some things that will have to give in order to achieve that.”

Asked whether that meant loss of private property, she said: “Not necessarily, it could be on-street parking, you know, there are different ways of delivering bus priority. It could be bus gates at junctions. It’s not always about purchasing of property.”

Dr Crowley said the Luas proposal was a “chicken and egg situation”.

“Cork’s prosperity lies in its ability to unlock apartment development in the docklands and intensifying the city core. If developers and consumers of housing in the future know there is going to be a Luas line, they are going to demand this.

“The Government has outlined that the development needs to come first before light rail, but my argument is that you need to take a gamble, because we aren’t going to get the scale of development required without actually having a light rail system first.”

Cork Chamber’s Sarah Thatt-Foley welcomed the plan, saying: “This is a plan which would benefit everyone, from commuters to visitors, and the more people we take out of cars the quicker it will be for those who do have to use their cars to get from A to B. From a Cork business perspective, sustainable public transport is absolutely one of the top priorities. So there is a lot to be excited about.”

A consultation period for the plan begins this week for six-weeks, during which consultation material will be available to view at Cork City Hall and Cork County Hall. Documents can be viewed and downloaded at nationaltransport.ie/public-consultations/current/.

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