Concern over future Cork LUAS bridge plan

Fears that a fixed bridge might prevent larger vessels from accessing Cork's city quays
Concern over future Cork LUAS bridge plan

A CGI image from the CMATS plan of the possible LUAS line and bridge between Kent Station and Cork's South Docklands.

The chair of Europe’s cruise industry has added his voice to concerns that a possible fixed-bridge between Cork’s Kent Station and the city’s south Docks for a future Luas system would prevent maritime vessels from accessing the city’s historic quaysides.

The Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) aims t overhaul Cork’s transport network and includes plans for a light-rail system running from Ballincollig to Mahon connecting the city centre, Kent Station and the Cork Docklands.

Last month, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and the National Transport Authority (NTA) appointed engineers to carry out the specific route selection.

According to the CMATS document Kent Station would act as a transport interchange for passengers using existing service to access the LUAS system. It also proposes a new bridge that would cross the river Lee to the south docks.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner recently the Port of Cork’s outgoing chief executive Brendan Keating said they have concerns about a possible fixed bridge structure at this location.

“We are concerned that consideration has been given to a bridge which would not open that’s going to prevent smaller cruise vessels coming up into the city and prevent masts coming up and some of the other leisure craft from accessing the city’s quays. Such activities enhance a city and anything that would prevent them is a concern.”

The tall ship SSV Corwith Cramer tied up on Kennedy Quay in 2016 alongside other pleasure craft. Pic; Larry Cummins
The tall ship SSV Corwith Cramer tied up on Kennedy Quay in 2016 alongside other pleasure craft. Pic; Larry Cummins

Michael McCarthy, the port company’s former commercial manager, chairs Cruise Europe, the representative body of Europe’s cruise industry.

He said a fixed bridge would have a ‘catastrophic’ effect on the maritime City.

“If such a bridge is installed, no merchant vessels will advance to the city, no foreign naval vessels, no small cruise vessels, no ferries from Cobh or water taxis,” he said.

“You will sterilise Horgan’s Quay, Penrose Quay, North and South Custom House Quay including the pontoons for visiting yachts and powerboats, Albert Quay and South Jetties and the Swinging Basin.”

Mr McCarthy said the Luas is a fantastic idea for the city but the old Cork to Blackrock-Passage-Crosshaven line across the Clontarf and Brian Boru bridges should be utilised instead.

“Our forefathers had the vision over 150 years ago and crossed the river without impeding shipping.

“Throughout the world, port cities have embraced shipping and water transport and we are now going to block off a maritime city whose reputation grew from the Butter Exchange, exporting and importing to modern-day vessels. The River made Cork City what it is today and now they are intent on sterilising it forever.”

 The Naval Service vessel LÉ Eithne berthed at Kennedy Quay in Cork during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: David Creedon
The Naval Service vessel LÉ Eithne berthed at Kennedy Quay in Cork during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: David Creedon

The 17km east-west Luas-style system is one of the biggest elements of the ambitious CMATS plan.

This proposed scheme will provide a high-capacity, high-frequency public transport link from the eastern to the western suburbs of Cork and will serve a large number of significant destinations including Ballincollig, the proposed Cork Science and Innovation Park (CSIP), Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), Cork University Hospital (CUH), University College Cork (UCC), Cork City Centre, Kent Station/Cork North Docklands, Cork South Docklands and Mahon.

A spokesperson for the TII said they will be conducting public consultation on the scheme in due course.

"We are aware of the concerns of the Port of Cork and we will, of course, take them into account."

Separately the Cork Chamber has called for progress on the planned Dunkettle interchange upgrade which they said would enable the development of CMATS.

Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber said: “The time to deliver the Dunkettle Interchange is now and it is essential that a final investment decision made without delay.”

“Following a frustrating setback 12 months ago when the project was retendered, the time is right to now take this investment forward and enable the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy. The project will provide countercyclical support for our construction sector and is essential for the region’s long-term development.”

The interchange is the busiest piece of infrastructure outside of Dublin carrying over 100,000 vehicles per day.

“Quite practically, there is an opportunity to accelerate work while traffic volumes are lower and disruption to business and commuters can be minimised.”

“The project will, for the first time, enable cyclists and pedestrians to safely traverse the junction. It is essential that the complementary greenways through Glanmire and Carrigtwohill are completed urgently and in parallel to facilitate sustainable local movement and mid-distance cycle commuting. Furthermore, enhanced bus access to Little Island creates the opportunity to offer a credible bus service finally adding some modal diversity for businesses and communities in the area.”

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