The long-awaited Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) document has arrived.
The document, drawn up at huge expense by Dublin-based consultants and the NTA, with some help from local councils, is high on platitudes but abysmally low on detail. Like the multitude of previous reports it is destined to gather dust.
Searching for specifics is a search in vain. For instance, the indicative western route for the Light Rail appears to exit the proposed six-lane Wilton Road and wanders through the narrow, residential areas of Bishopstown and Curraheen to CIT, after which it continues along 4km of virgin green belt, eventually through Castle Road to Ballincollig. For some reason the specific route is undefined and how it traverses the many narrow roads and major permanent pinch points is not addressed.
The narrow Bishopstown and Curraheen Roads appear to be preferred route both of which are incapable of accommodating the required six lanes width exiting Wilton Road. Exiting Wilton Road in the northerly direction presents an even greater challenge again because of narrow roads.
Strangely and a measure of its incoherence, the document doesn’t mention Wilton Road where, to accommodate Bus Connects, Light Rail, and cycle lanes, the NTA have already jumped the gun as they attempt to widen a short section of the roadway by confiscating a draconian 9m from gardens.
Even stranger, there is no scoping, route appraisal, cost-benefit analysis for the remainder of Wilton Road as well as for the whole route from the city center to the western suburbs. Consistent with the usual modus of the NTA, without any idea of the final cost, their profligate use of tax payers’ funds in this instance contravenes the Public Spending Code.
The report states rather coyly that some acquisition of gardens will be required along the selected routes. Residents along the proposed 100km of bus priority lanes and the Light Rail will be treated in a similar manner and should therefore be seriously concerned for their gardens, green spaces, privacy, and value of their homes as well as a brutal assault on their quality of life.
It is clear from the many photographs that cyclists will share space with bus lanes and cars while on page 72 the unfortunate cyclist is banished completely to make way for the light rail on Washington Street.
The primary objective is to provide a ‘modal shift away from cars’ and reduce congestion and reliance on private cars. However, it should be of concern that traffic volume projection figures provided recently by the NTA up to 2026 show volumes continuing to rise significantly which seriously questions the benefit of this project for a cost of €3.5bn.
This highlights the need for a Regional Transport Authority with greater local knowledge and less dependent on the consultancy gravy train. It begs the question as to why the combined might of Cork City and County Councils is not capable of local planning without the dead hand of the NTA.
This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on May 23, 2019.