Cork transport strategy expected to improve bus network as precursor to new light-rail system

Cork transport strategy expected to improve bus network as precursor to new light-rail system

The long-awaited €3bn transport strategy for Cork, which is finally due to be unveiled next week, is expected to recommend massive investment to deliver a reliable high-capacity bus system as a precursor to a Luas-type rail service.

It is hoped the draft Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Study (CMATS) will also recommend new commuter rail stations at Tivoli docks, in Blackpool, and one to serve the Monard strategic development zone in Blarney, as well as new park and ride facilities, including at Dunkettle.

Significant investment in cycling infrastructure is expected, with an expansion of the city’s hugely successful bikes scheme on the cards, alongside measures to help commuters mix their modes, as well as measures to improve public transport integration.

The detail emerged last night as the National Transport Authority (NTA) confirmed that the draft CMATS, which was due for publication early last year, is finally due to be published for six weeks of public consultation from next Tuesday.

The NTA said the strategy will provide a framework for the planning and delivery of transport infrastructure and services, including road, rail, bus, cycling and walking, in the Cork metropolitan area over the next two decades.

While it is expected to reference a number of road improvement projects, including the planned M28 Cork to Ringaskiddy motorway and the Dunkettle interchange upgrade, it will focus heavily on improving the bus network.

The Dunkettle interchange
The Dunkettle interchange

It will recommend the development of a vast network of bus lanes and bus priority measures, including a strategic east-west public transport corridor from Mahon to Ballincollig via the city centre, to deliver a high-capacity bus service.

This route will form the basis of any future light-rail route when population densities along the corridor increase to make a Luas-style service viable.

Sources close to the project say the measures required to deliver a reliable bus service will be disruptive in the short-to-medium term but are vital if the city is to avoid crippling gridlock.

The Government has already allocated some €200m to deliver the BusConnects scheme over the next decade.

While it is understood that CMATS will class the proposed Northern Ring Road as a long-term strategic goal, it is expected to recommend upgrades to several existing roads, including improved interconnections to the existing N40 South Ring Road.

CMATS has included input from a range of stakeholders, including Cork City and County Councils and the Southern Regional Assembly, which published a draft spatial strategy for the entire southern region up to 2031 which described the draft strategy as a "game changer" for metropolitan Cork.

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