Taoiseach: Part of Cork's €600m BusConnects plan has left elderly in tears

Taoiseach: Part of Cork's €600m BusConnects plan has left elderly in tears

Taoiseach Micheal Martin: 'Destroying the character of certain neighbourhoods was never on anybody's agenda.' Picture: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

The Taoiseach has said a key element of the €600m BusConnects plan for Cork has caused “extraordinary anxiety” and has left elderly people crying in their homes.

Micheál Martin said he shares the concerns of the city’s Fianna Fáil councillors about the National Transport Authority's (NTA) draft plans for 12 new strategic transport corridors (STCs). He also criticised the NTA which he said could have handled the matter in a “better way”.

Speaking in Prague, he said: “It has created extraordinary anxiety among people across the city, elderly people are crying because of the letters that have been sent to their homes. 

I think there must be a better way for a national agency to behave in respect of an issue like this.” 

The NTA published draft plans for the STCs during the summer which could see 933 properties impacted, the loss of 1,039 on-street parking spaces, and the felling of just over 1,400 trees.

If implemented in full, the STCs would deliver just over 90km of bus lane or bus-priority lanes and 112km of cycle facilities citywide.

CEO of the NTA Anne Graham and Ann Doherty, chief executive Cork City Council unveil a €600m investment in BusConnects Cork which will include the creation of twelve Sustainable Transport Corridors. Picture: Darragh Kane
CEO of the NTA Anne Graham and Ann Doherty, chief executive Cork City Council unveil a €600m investment in BusConnects Cork which will include the creation of twelve Sustainable Transport Corridors. Picture: Darragh Kane

But the plans have caused controversy and split the city.

The NTA is now assessing hundreds of submissions which were made by last Monday’s deadline, and which will inform revised plans for further consultation.

However, all seven of the city’s Fianna Fáil councillors, including the Taoiseach’s brother, have tabled a motion for Monday’s council meeting calling for the plans to be rejected.

Terry Shannon, John Sheehan, Tony Fitzgerald, Colm Kelleher, Mary Rose Desmond, Seán Martin, and Fergal Dennehy have also demanded better communications from the NTA, more consultation, and a permanent NTA office in Cork City to ensure better engagement.

Mr Dennehy said: “We need to encourage people onto buses and to cycle more, but at what cost? We can’t turn Cork into a battleground.” 

Mr Martin said the BusConnects concept is sound, but some of the proposals are not workable.

If you don’t bring people with you, you are wasting your time,” he said.

Ms Desmond said the current proposals do not stack up. 

"There is no easy way to do this, not everyone will be happy,” she said. "But there is a better way to do this." 

The Taoiseach waded into the debate last night.

"The same happened in Dublin a year ago and the plan that eventually emerged was significantly different from the one that was originally proposed, through a lot of advocacy and representation by various organisations," he said.

"I think there are question marks with that approach — the idea that you put forward one plan and then the one that eventually emerges is dramatically different, but in the meantime, a lot of anxiety and stress is caused. I think different approaches could yield similar or better results.

There's a lot of very concerned people out there and councillors are fully entitled to represent those views.

"Destroying the character of certain neighbourhoods was never on anybody's agenda.” 

NTA deputy chief executive Hugh Creegan defended the NTA's approach and said consultation is ongoing and the feedback will shape revised plans.

Green Party councillor Oliver Moran described the Fianna Fáil motion as “astonishing and disappointing”.

Green Party councillor Oliver Moran criticised the Fianna Fáil motion. Picture: Darragh Kane
Green Party councillor Oliver Moran criticised the Fianna Fáil motion. Picture: Darragh Kane

“It's no wonder people are feeling frustrated when they are being so badly let down by some councillors like this," he said.

“The best advice I can give to residents in areas where these councillors are is to get in contact with me and I'll help arrange face-to-face meetings with the NTA."

Labour Party representative Peter Horgan said Cork needs BusConnects to work.

"But let’s do it together — not as part of a campaign of division," he said.

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