Residents have threatened to block cars accessing one of Ireland’s busiest shopping centres in a fresh row over the operation of a bus gate.
People living close to MahonPoint shopping centre on the southside of Cork city say the sensor-controlled barrier which is designed to facilitate only buses driving in and out of the shopping centre site was “commandeered” over Christmas to ease car park congestion. They say the bus gate’s sensors were blocked to ensure its barrier remained open and that it was done deliberately to allow cars exit the car park at busy times.
Management at the shopping centre were not available for comment yesterday.
Local resident, Chris O’Leary, a former city councillor and Lord Mayor, said using the bus gate to facilitate private cars exiting the shopping centre car park was a clear abuse of public transport infrastructure. He said he plans to lodge a formal complaint with Cork City Council and to ensure enforcement action is taken.
“Every Christmas, I get calls from residents in the area about how the bus gate is being opened on purpose to ease traffic congestion in the car park — to let motorists out of the car park. This infrastructure was installed at taxpayers’ expense. It is owned and serviced by the taxpayer to facilitate the operation of one of the city’s busiest bus services, the 202, which links two of the city’s most employment hubs, the Apple campus in Hollyhill and the Mahon area and its large employers, including MahonPoint shopping centre," he said.
“The bus gate, which is part of wider sustainable transport measures in the Mahon area, has helped make this one of the most-used bus services. But this is wanton abuse and misuse of that infrastructure — where we’ve poured millions into developing sustainable transport and which has proven to be a success.”
The bus gate was installed as part of a wider €4.5m public transport upgrade along a route through the Blackrock and Mahon area which was identified a decade ago as one of Cork’s strategic transport corridors. The works, which have been delivered in stages in recent years, include significant widening and upgrades of Skehard Rd to improve bus, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure and various junction improvements.
The bus gate element included the construction of a new automated barrier-controlled access to MahonPoint Shopping Centre from St Michael’s Drive for buses only, along with road widening works on St Michael’s Drive to allow for new bus lane. The 202 bus route was then altered to allow buses travel down St Michael’s Rd and into the MahonPoint car park via the sensor-controlled bus gate at the north eastern side of the shopping centre campus.
The sensors were damaged by vandals several times in 2018 but this latest issue has infuriated local residents, who say their suburb was swamped by traffic during the busy Christmas period.
Mr O’Leary said the Loughmahon Residents Group will support local residents in any direct action they may take to highlight their concerns over the operation of the bus gate: “Unless we get reassurances from City Hall, we will take steps to highlight our concerns about and a blocking of the MahonPoint entrance at critical times has been discussed."