There was some dismay at the recent launch of the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) 2040, as it was revealed that a bus link connecting Passage West with Carrigaline was not in the design plans for Cork’s future transport network. The draft proposals have been developed by the National Transport Authority in collaboration with Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Cork City Council and Cork County Council.
The plans overall stem from the National Planning Framework 2040, with Cork City and County being identified as a key area in need for development and transport infrastructure. The Government has said that Cork’s population is set to increase by 100,000 – 150,000 between now and 2040 and in order to meet demand and capacity, significant improvements in the transport network will be necessary.
The Strategy is set to cost €3.5 billion, and hopes to establish an overhaulling of how Cork looks at how it uses transport. Sustainable development seems to be embedded in the plans and suggests that our culture of car dependency is no longer a long-term viable option. Creating and re-developing footpaths and increasing a cycle network are both referred to, along with the introduction of bus corridors.
The latter of these in particular will be used to incentivise commuters to use public transport as buses will be allocated specific lanes that will allow them to avoid traffic congestion. However, the biggest announcement was without doubt the news that a €1 billion light-rail system, similar to the LUAS in Dublin, is set to be developed. It will have 25 stops, covering 17km, and will link Ballincollig with Mahon Point, via St Patrick’s Street and Kent Station.
Speaking to The Carrigdhoun recently about CMATS was local resident, Dr. Frank Crowley. Frank is an Economics lecturer in University College Cork and has a keen research interest in Regional Development and Spatial Matters.
Asked whether he believes this strategy shows that Cork is now being taken seriously by the Dublin establishment, Frank said, “we won’t know if the government is serious about this investment unless it follows up with the money. Clearly, it’s an ambitious plan but it’s only a plan at the moment. The plan for 100km of bus lanes and an integrated cycle network and rapid transit from Ballincollig to Mahon are very progressive signals. However, it will be interesting to see if the Government will prioritise these sustainable transport plans before the intended road investments in CMATS”.
While there is certainly some excitement for what could be ahead, there was major anger and disappointment following the omission in the plans of a bus route connecting Passage West with Carrigaline. A route between the two towns has been long-lobbied for by a number of County Councillors and residents, so that there is access to the Carrigaline Primary Care Centre.
The Transport Strategy includes an improved service frequency for the 223 bus, along with the proposed new route between Ringaskiddy and Cork Airport via Ballygarvan. However, nothing is mentioned about a link between Passage and Carrigaline, despite all of the political and public pressure that has been laid at the NTA’s doorstep.
A further criticism of the Strategy has been the decision to not include water transport, particularly ‘river taxis’. For commuters living in areas like Passage, Ringaskiddy, and Rochestown, water travel to employment hotspots like Little Island could help to reduce congestion.