Cork plan proposes light rail network, 200km cycling network

Transport strategy also calls for major upgrade of suburban rail services with six new stations

 Cork’s population is expected to double over the next two decades. Photograph: iStock

Cork’s population is expected to double over the next two decades. Photograph: iStock


Half of all commuters in Cork will be using public transport daily by 2040 under a €3.5 billion National Transport Authority plan that promises a 17km long light rail line.

The line, with 25 stops between Ballincollig and Mahon, will carry nearly 46 million passengers annually – with a third of the city’s population and nearly two-thirds of its jobs within walking distance of stops.

It will run past Cork Institute of Technology, Cork University Hospital, Cork County Hall and University College Cork, before serving the city centre, the Docklands and Mahon Point.

Major upgrades of the Mallow and Midleton suburban rail lines are promised, including six new stations at Monard, Blackpool, Tivoli, Carrigtwohill West, Water Rock and Ballynoe to carry 16 million passengers annually.

The €3.5bn plan includes €1.39bn to finish the Dunkettle Interchange by 2022, the upgrade of the M28 Cork-Ringaskiddy motorway by 2028 and the North Ring Road by 2035.

Nearly €550m will be spent building 100km of bus lanes and on 220 extra buses that will carry 85 million passengers annually. Two hundred kilometres of footpaths will also be built.

Extra cycleways

Meanwhile, the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) will produce 140km of greenways, 200km of extra cycleways, along with bike-sharing schemes and showers for cyclists.

Segregated routes for cyclists will be created along the city’s waterfront: Sallybrook/Glanmire – City Centre via Lower Glanmire Road, Model Farm Road to Glasheen Road, Old Youghal Road and Kinsale Road to the airport.

Cyclists will have their own lanes on the Douglas Road, Skehard Road, Station Road, Carrigtwohill, the Northern Distributor Road and the Southern Distributor Road.

National Transport Authority (NTA) chief executive, Anne Graham said the plan is designed to cater for Cork’s growth over the next two decades, as its population is expected to double.

Light rail will be preceded by a high-frequency bus service between Mahon and Ballincollig to be delivered “in the short-term” to underpin high-density developments between the two, including the regeneration of the city’s docks.

Meanwhile, people will be encouraged to walk more. Urban planning rules will be changed “in a fashion that consistently prioritises pedestrian movement and safety over that of the private car”.

Existing roads must be used more efficiently, said the NTA. “For Cork to grow sustainably as forecast, its street network must facilitate more walking and cycling.”

Timetable pledges

Welcoming the plan as “an essential milestone” in the growth of Ireland’s second city, Cork Chamber chief executive, Conor Healy sought clear funding and timetable pledges from the Government.

“In recognition of Cork’s positioning within Ireland 2040, we believe the establishment of a permanent National Transport Authority office in Cork is required to ensure that implementation does not fall off the agenda.”

Public transport is a top priority for Cork, he said. “With 65,000 jobs targeted across Cork and significant population growth, we cannot continue to have 70 per cent of commuters arriving into the city using private cars or trucks.”

However, the immediate priority is improvements in the public bus system, not light rail, he said, adding that Cork only has 14km of dedicated bus lanes.

“Early delivery of ‘Bus Connnects’ must be a priority. We also have an opportunity now to implement relatively low-cost interventions that will hugely improve the experience of commuters and visitors to our city without having to go through protracted planning processes.”

Five public information days on the plan will take place next month: Wednesday, June 5th: Imperial Hotel, South Mall; Thursday June 6th: Oriel House Hotel, Ballincollig; Wednesday, June 12th: Radisson Hotel, Little Island; Thursday June 13th: Carrigaline Court Hotel, Carrigaline and Wednesday June 19th: Blarney Castle Hotel, Blarney.