Work to identify route options for the proposed €1bn Cork light rail system is set to get under way next month.
The big step towards delivery of the 17km east-west Luas-style tram linking Ballincollig to Mahon is expected to be confirmed later today at the publication of the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS).
It is expected to be confirmed that specialist engineers will be appointed in April to begin assessing route options for a light rail system.
The ambitious project was one of the most significant proposals outlined in the draft CMATS document which was published for public consultation last year by the National Transport Authority (NTA), in association with Cork City Council, Cork County Council, and Transport Infrastructure Ireland.
Senior NTA officials are due in Cork today for the publication of the final €3.5bn blueprint which will provide a detailed framework for the planning and delivery of transport infrastructure and services in the Cork metropolitan area over the next two decades.
No significant changes to the draft study are expected, but it is understood that the possibility of a water taxi service linking harbour towns to the city centre has been factored into the final strategy.
A 25-stop 17km light rail system linking Ballincollig to Mahon via a new docklands bridge was one of the headline projects in the draft CMATS.
However, the study also proposes a massive €700m investment in the region’s bus, suburban rail, and bike networks to increase the number of morning peak journeys by sustainable transport modes from 33% to 50% by 2040.
The immediate focus will be on a €545m investment package for the bus network to deliver a 700% increase in bus lanes, from 14km today up to 100km.
The city’s bus network has been described as the “workhorse or the glue of the city’s future public transport system”, with major plans for bus lanes and corridors, bus priority measures, and a new fleet, with 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.
As part of a €274m investment in rail services, CMATS proposes new commuter rail stations at Blarney/Stoneview, Monard, and Blackpool/Kilbarry, on the Mallow line and at Tivoli, Dunkettle, Ballynoe, Carrigtwohill West and Water Rock, on the Cobh/Midleton line, and upgrades to stations in Cork, Cobh, and Mallow.
There are plans to electrify the suburban rail network and develop 10km of dual track between Cobh Junction and Midleton.
There are also plans for a €230m investment in the development of 200km of primary bike lanes, 150km of secondary cycling network, 60km of inter-urban cycling networks and 140km of Greenways and a ban on heavy goods vehicles from the city centre.
But a high-frequency east-west bus corridor will be delivered first and it is expected to form the basis of the proposed light-rail route.