Extended upgrade proposals are being considered along one of Cork’s busiest roads in a bid to deliver the city’s first BusConnects-style transport corridor after the original plans were shot down last summer.
News that more extensive upgrades along the strategic Wilton Road route are now on the cards comes as the National Transport Authority (NTA) confirmed that work to finalise the €3.5bn Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) is at an advanced stage.
The draft CMATS, an ambitious public transport blueprint which includes proposals for a €1bn light rail system and a €700m strategy to upgrade the bus, rail and bike networks, was unveiled for public consultation in May. An estimated €545m is earmarked to deliver 100km of bus lanes and bus priority measures.
NTA chief executive, Anne Graham, said tough choices would be needed to realise the vision. But just weeks later, city councillors shot down plans for the city’s first BusConnects-style upgrade along the Wilton Road.
The first phase of the Wilton Corridor project, a €4m upgrade designed to create inbound and outbound bus and cycle lanes along a section of the road from Wilton Gardens to Dennehy’s Cross, would have seen a portion of several front gardens being sacrificed for the bus and bike lanes.
The proposed upgrade included junction improvements and new pedestrian facilities.
Local residents revolted and when the Part 8 planning came before city councillors, they voted 16-8 to reject it, with several criticising the “piece-meal” approach to the upgrade.
A spokesperson for the city council’s transport directorate said an extension of the upgrade proposals along the route will be discussed with the NTA in the context of forthcoming funding allocations.
“The strategic importance of the roadway in question has been identified in the draft Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy which is expected to be finalised shortly,” he said.
The NTA said 171 submissions were received during the public consultation period on CMATS. “The feedback received during the consultation process has been evaluated and is being taken into consideration in the finalisation of the transport strategy. It is at an advanced stage in its preparation and is currently being finalised,” a spokesperson said.
While a €1bn, 25-stop light rail system linking Ballincollig to Mahon via a new docklands bridge is among the CMATS proposals, work is unlikely to start on it before 2031.
The immediate focus will be on the €545m investment package for the bus network to deliver a 700% increase in bus lanes from 14km to 100km.
CMATS describes the bus network as the “workhorse or the glue of the city’s future public transport system”.
It sets out ambitious predicted journey times of 20 minutes from Mahon to Blarney, 20 minutes from Ballincollig to Glanmire, 15 minutes from Dublin Hill to Togher, and Ringaskiddy to Cork Airport in 30 minutes.
A high-frequency east-west bus corridor will be delivered first and will form the basis of the future light rail route, but transport engineers said the tram system could be delivered sooner if population densities hit certain targets sooner than expected.