Cork Transport Strategy: Delivery dates push plan into realm of fantasy

A convention of our age is that we try to see the best in everything. We accentuate the positive and ignore the shadows thrown by sliver-lined clouds. Politicians have, naturally,

so refined this process they have a name for it: Constructive ambiguity. Naysayers are ridiculed and silenced, the blindly positive can be elevated to high office on a surge of wishful thinking. A bill for that delusion invariably arrives.

Yesterday’s publication of the Cork Metropolitan Area Draft Transport Strategy should not require constructive ambiguities; it should stir civic pride and renew optimism about the city’s future. It should be an occasion when new plans show how the lives of those living and working in the city might be enriched.

Anyone who cares for the city has a real interest in how planners imagine a response to known knowns. Sadly the timescales proposed and the sense of meeting old, long lost friends that came with yesterday’s blueprint makes it very difficult to respond positively.

The headline proposal is a €1bn light rail from Ballincollig to Mahon. Work is unlikely to begin on this before 2031. It is hoped this will, by 2040, mean over half of all morning commuters use sustainable transport. Only 33% do so today. In a world choking on emissions, this seems head-in-the-sand inadequate; an inadequacy exacerbated by a shocking absence of urgency.

This inadequacy is reflected in a lack of funding commitments. Only €200m has been promised over the next decade, and this for the bus system — and maybe some of the 200-plus diesel buses ordered by the NTA.

The sense of familiarity with the idea of “six strategic park-and-ride sites” is justified, as the Cork Area Strategic Plan of 2001 made the same promise. One is operational.

Next week we have local elections and a vote on an office which, when all the sales guff is stripped away, is no more than a supersized city mascot. Turnout may not be spectacular and proposals like yesterday’s, symptomatic of a bigger malaise, are partly to blame. Cork is an ambitious, positive, can-do city and that is the kind of leadership, local and national, it deserves.

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