Calls are increasing for a Luas-style transport system to reduce congestion in Cork, as latest figures show significant increases in traffic volumes over the last two years, writes Rob McNamara.
Statistics from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) show average daily traffic levels are rising in the majority of Cork hot-spots, including the Jack Lynch tunnel and Dunkettle Interchange areas.
Traffic volumes between the Jack Lynch tunnel and the Mahon junction on the South Ring Road have increased by more than 4,000 cars per day since 2015 to 67,183.
The Dunkettle Interchange between the N25 and N28 and Little Island has seen daily volumes rise from 51,480 cars per day to 55,150.
The South Ring Road between Ballinora and Curraheen at Bishopstown has seen a rise of almost 4,000 cars per day to 41,465.
Traffic levels in and out of the city at the N20 have risen from 20,916 to 21,778, while increases have also been recorded at the N22 at Poulavone and between Ballincollig and Ovens.
Conor Faughnan, director of consumer affairs at the AA, believes the economic recovery in Cork will be hampered unless drivers are given alternative modes of transport and suggested seven Luas lines should be built in the city.
“Traffic stats are merely a barometer of the recovery that’s happened in the last couple of years,” he said.
“It is very evident in Galway and Cork. We see it continually.
“Cork is in the exact same situation as every other city in Ireland. You are heading for serious problems.
“Traffic volumes will inhibit economic growth and act as a choke and restrictor on it.
“The problem that Cork has is an infrastructure deficit, specifically a public transport deficit,” he said.
“The argument, to our frustration, is always; ‘Why are people using their cars?’
“What you have to do is provide alternatives. Dublin is just extending its Luas line now. When we had the investment opportunity back in the day we should have been building 12 Luas lines in Dublin, seven in Cork and four in Galway. We still need to do that.
“In the medium term, Cork is going to continue to suffer from traffic congestion as a by-product of prosperity, In the long-run, the only way in which that can be solved is by a capital investment in public transport alternatives. Nothing else is going to address it,” he added.
Earlier this month, accountancy firm Ernst & Young said their staff are experiencing problems in getting to work while a report by Sat Nav company TomTom earlier this year showed Cork drivers spend 40 minutes per day stuck in traffic.
The strain on Cork’s road network was highlighted by a TII report in April that showed a number of primary and secondary routes in Cork operating at levels more than 20% above capacity.
Cork South Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has also called for a light rail system for the city in his submission to the national planning framework.
“If we are to compete with Dublin then I think we need to look seriously at public transport in Cork,” he said. “We need to look at introducing some form of light-rail transport for commuters and we need to look at it now for the future. We need to assess if the Cork of ten or fifteen years needs a system like that.
“You could have it coming into the city from Ballincollig or from Carrigaline through Douglas.”