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Cork on the Rise: Plans are afoot to be ready for the future

Three cranes at work on the redevelopment of the Horgan’s Quay site. Picture: David Creedon

Transport plans take into consideration the population growth expected to take place by 2040, says Gerard O’Beirne

Cork City is currently undergoing a period of significant change. With new developments at Albert Quay, Navigation Square, Horgan’s Quay, Sullivans Quay and South Mall, the city has become the location for thousands of new jobs.

In a similar way, the population of Cork City is projected to grow to 375,000 by 2040 under the National Planning Framework. The blueprint for the future development of transport in Cork lies in the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) which is due to be published by the National Transport Authority in the coming weeks.

The Government has already pledged €200m for a Cork Bus Connects programme under the National Development Plan. 

As new bus lanes are completed, it will also be possible to establish additional bus-based park and ride services which can compete effectively with general traffic.

Additional investment is also expected for improved fare payment and passenger information systems as well as improved service integration. The ongoing and future growth of Cork City also requires investment in rapid transit services (bus rapid transport and light rail).

The east west rapid transit corridor in particular will be a key enabler to the ongoing development and consolidation of the city, connecting the city centre to Bishopstown and Ballincollig in the west and Docklands and Mahon in the east.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland is progressing a major improvement scheme at the Dunkettle Interchange and it is anticipated that in the coming years there will be considerable investment in strategically important routes including those servicing Cork Airport and Ringaskiddy.

It is also expected that further improvements will be made in reducing interurban journey times, as provided for in the National Development Plan, along with the advancement of the Cork to Limerick motorway and a northern ring route for the city.

Picture: Tom Coakley

National and local policies also envisage significant investment in the development of new bridges and related infrastructure to support development in the City Docklands.

The council is currently preparing new local area plans for the Docklands and Tivioli.

These areas are of national importance and will be key drivers of prosperity in the city. The council will shortly publish proposals to upgrade the existing docklands junctions and it is expected that circa €6m will be invested in upgrading these in the coming year.

In recent years the council started to introduce new cycling infrastructure into the city. The related Coke Zero bike scheme has been a very positive addition to this infrastructure, enabling people to cycle for short and ‘last mile’ trips within the area serviced.

Cork City Council has been acutely aware for some years of the need to offer greater transport choices for workers and residents in the city.

We have been implementing the City Centre Movement Strategy (CCMS) with financial support from the National Transport Authority. This is aimed at providing better routing for through traffic, reduced public transport journey times and improved networks for pedestrians and cyclists.

    The elements of the strategy that have been progressed to date include:

  • Parnell Place renewal scheme;
  • Kent Station to city centre improvement scheme;
  • UCC to city route improvements;
  • CCMS Phases 1 & 2 (encompassing the Middle Parish and city centre areas;
  • The new Mary Elmes Bridge (due for completion this summer).

The remaining works to be undertaken under the CCMS will be progressed under two separate tranches. Design work is currently being progressed in relation to the first of these covering the areas of MacCurtain St/St Patrick’s Quay/ Merchant’s Quay/Anderson’s Quay and surrounding streets.

Draft proposals will be available in the coming months to enable engagement with elected members, businesses, residents, schools etc. It is anticipated that the scheme will go to tender later this year.

The shift from cars to more sustainable modes is already underway. The compact form of the city has traditionally supported relatively high levels of walking.

Cycling levels are now growing and both walking and cycling levels will increase further to the benefit of all road users as facilities such as cycle lanes, crossings, footpaths and lighting are improved.

Bus passenger numbers have also been growing consistently in Cork in recent years with annual trip numbers of about 14m in 2018 on city services compared to approx 10m in 2013. This is being supported by network and service improvements as well as the significant overhaul of the city bus fare system.

As part of the latter, the lower city bus rates were extended to a wider area including Ballincollig, Blarney, Carrigaline and Glanmire with further discounts for those using cashless payment options.

The first 24-hour bus service in Ireland was recently introduced in Cork providing round the clock connections to Carrigaline and Ballincollig with a 15-minute daytime frequency.

Increased awareness of importance of environmental protection, human health and climate change will accelerate the transition to alternative vehicle fuels as well as sustainable modes.

As part of this process, the City Council is currently planning for the transition of its own fleet of vehicles to EV. There will also be significant regulatory and practical challenges as the application of autonomous vehicle technology rolls out.

However, throughout all these changes the central objective of transportation policy will be to ensure ease of access and movement for people within and across the city.

Cork will be one of the fastest growing areas in the country over the coming years.

The city will continue to implement the transportation changes necessary to ensure that this growth is supported so that the Cork achieves its potential as a prosperous city with a good quality of life.

Gerard O’Beirne is director of services, roads and transportation with Cork City Council.

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