BusConnects Cork: Radical Changes Proposed for Local Bus Routes
Updated: Nov 5
Significant Changes Proposed for Carrigaline, Crosshaven, Passage West and Ringaskiddy
Writes Ciaran Dineen
There has been a mixed response towards the launch of the BusConnects Cork Draft New Network, which is arguably the most transformative proposal for public transport infrastructure in Cork's history.
The context behind the need to introduce an overhaul of the public transit network stems from national planning strategies, namely Ireland 2040. The National Planning Framework identifies a move towards a rebalancing of regional development, with regions like Cork and Waterford in particular at the heart of this shift towards creating polycentric cities.
As part of this long-term strategy, establishing a first-class public transport network is required, with Cork expected to see the adoption of the finalised BusConnects plan between 2023 and 2024. In July 2021 the National Transport Authority (NTA) held an initial public consultation to give the people of Cork an early opportunity to shape the new bus network. There were 1120 responses to a survey, and additional engagements via email and on the project website.
The new network report has been prepared by Jarrett Walker & Associates (JWA), a US-based firm which specialises in designing metropolitan public transport systems, in collaboration with Bus Éireann, Cork City Council and Cork County Council.
Under the proposals contained in the new Draft Network Report, the level of bus services in Cork will increase by 36% with shorter waits and more direct routes for commuters within the city. 34% more people will live close to a frequent service.
According to the report, the proposals will also result in more residents of the city and areas within the Cork Metropolitan Area having access to the public transport network with Little Island, Cobh, Carrigaline, Ringaskiddy, Glanmire, Ballincollig and Blarney among those areas with new routes.
The redesigned bus network will provide a more coherently planned, higher capacity, more understandable network for those within the Cork Metropolitan Area while paving the way for the future introduction of Luas within the city.
Services will be organised around high frequency routes within the city centre with route branches extending out to other areas of the city. Additional weekend services will also be provided. Fares will be simplified in a way that will make interchange seamless. Customers will not have to pay extra to change between bus, rail or future Luas services within that 90-minute period.
Referring to the near 1200 survey responses, some interesting results have been obtained. 76% of respondents expressed a strong or very strong appetite for changes to the network that maximise benefits. Reducing vehicle travel and carbon emissions emerged as the most commonly stated goal, with nearly half of respondents selecting it. When given the choice between short waits or short walks to public transport, those who stated a preference for “short waits” or “whatever gets me to my destination soonest” represented 77% of the respondents (853). 19% of respondents chose “short walks.
However, without doubt one the biggest changes that is embedded in the new network plan is the emergence of interchanging. According to the survey, a majority of respondents (76%) said they would accept more interchange if it would result in greater access and faster journeys for most people. The idea of hopping on and off buses is not a new concept, and the practice is experienced throughout major cities across Europe.
However, it presents a fundamental change to Irish behaviour, which will require a significant amount of buy-in to become accepted. According to transport consultants JWA, there is a trade-off between interchange and complexity that arises in many transport networks. The more a public transport network is designed to avoid interchange, the more complex it must be, and the poorer the frequency of many routes. As a result, the introduction of interchanging is proposed in an attempt to improve the reliability and frequency of public transport across the Cork Metropolitan Area.
Effects on Carrigaline, Crosshaven, Passage West and Ringaskiddy services:
There are several changes proposed to routes that operate in local towns and villages in the Carrigdhoun area, which will also see the implementation of new bus numbers, with the traditional 220, 225, 223 etc, set to become a thing of the past. The standout revelation is that Crosshaven will no longer have a direct route to and from Cork City, with passengers required to switch buses in Carrigaline. It will however have a direct bus to Carrigaline with a 30 minute frequency, which will also travel through housing estates in Carrigaline and on to Haulbowline.
Carrigaline is very much emerging as a ‘transport hub’ for the south of Cork and will now see no less than 8 different routes go through its catchment area. Three of these buses (3, 3A, 3B) will travel between the Carrigaline Primary Care Centre and Apple, all via Douglas, using either Donnybrook or Maryborough Hill. These will all operate on a regular service, at a frequency of either 10 or 20 minutes.
An hourly bus (42X) will operate between Main Street Carrigaline to Kent Train Station via Carrs Hill, while two buses (13A, 40) will connect Carrigaline with Haulbowline. One of these is essentially the current 225 route, while the other will begin in Crosshaven and finish in Haulbowline. Last but by no means least, Carrigaline will finally commence a route that connects with Passage West. This is the number 12 bus and will travel as far as the Bus Station via Douglas. It means that there will be no direct route between Carrigaline and both UCC and MTU (CIT).
It should be reiterated however, that one single fare will last 90 minutes from purchase, and passengers can hop from one bus to another without buying another ticket within that timescale.
A final service (81) will operate between Carrigaline and Ballincollig, but it appears that this will only run between Midnight to 5am.
Passage West gains its connection with Carrigaline on one hand, but loses its ties with Ringaskiddy and Shanbally on the other. It looks likely that an interchange will be possible near the Raffeen Hill crossroads, but this isn’t guaranteed. The number 12 bus connecting Carrigaline with Passage will service Carrigmahon Hill but only at ‘certain times’
Further information will no doubt emerge as part of the public consultation sessions which commence on November 17th. So far, local councillors and politicians have broadly welcomed the proposals but with some trepidation. Concerns have been raised already, mostly relating to new interchanging practices, and it is likely that these points will be raised regularly going forward.