Last August, The National Transport Authority (NTA) proposed a “Luas" light rail line between Ballincollig, a small rural village close to UCC, and Mahon Point, an emerging development zone adjacent to the extensive port lands of Cork city. This line will be 17 kilometers in length, with 25 projected stops along the line, these include include key locations such as UCC, CIT, Kent Station, Patrick’s Street, with the terminus at Mahon.
The Proposed Cork Luas Network
There will be 27 trams with an ‘estimate’ of a €1 billion cost with a trip frequency estimate of five minutes per tram from the NTA. The proposal is part of an overall plan: the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) 2040 developed by the NTA with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), Cork City and Cork County Councils. There is to be some expansion of the mainline rail line to Midleton, and an electrification proposal for the Midelton, Cobh and Mallow line.
In this regard, a Dail motion on BusConnects in 2018 by Dublin Deputies proposed that "the current proposals put forward by the National Transport Authority via BusConnects for culling bus routes across Dublin and its greater area be immediately reversed and re-configured so that all communities in Dublin and surrounding counties can retain access to their schools, colleges, work places, hospitals and other essential amenities, by Dublin Bus".
BusConnects arrives at Cork City
The transport authority also intends to implement the new BusConnects system for Cork. This is also being proposed for Dublin City and is promoted as a means to provide more bus routes and a higher frequency of services. The NTA bus fleet is projected to grow to 220 double-deck vehicles in Cork. There are 100 kilometres of priority measures and bus lanes proposed, seven times the present number of bus lanes in Cork city centre.
It is an open question if these measures will ever be fully implemented, how cars are to be excluded from the Cork routes and how Bus Éireann is supposed to operate a reduced service on the remaining roads (if at all).
Dáil Éireann Motion on BusConnects 19th February 2018
In 2018, with regard to the Dublin BusConnects proposals, Dáil Deputies noted the following features:
* Finglas village would no longer have a direct service. No plans were seen for the adjacent lands subject to compulsory purchase orders, (CPOs).
* The proposed removal of the direct services to Dublin from Celbridge, with a population of nearly 22,500, from Leixlip, (population of 15,000), Maynooth, (population of 15,000 and a university population of 12,000).
* The No. 47, would no longer serve St. Vincent's University Hospital from Ringsend and Sandymount, and the No. 15A will be removed from Terenure Road West.
* Users in Howth and Sutton would have to use the N6, between Howth and DCU, and will connect to the city centre via Raheny DART station or the Artane roundabout on the D or A spine.
The NTA says 92% of people will have a direct bus route into the city centre. That leaves 8% without a direct bus route which could affect Dublin Mid-West.
"With further concern is that this would result in redundancies, not just in Dublin Bus but in other transport services. I believe there is a privatisation agenda behind these proposals."
Also in 2018, the Fianna Fáil transport spokesman stated that more Dublin Bus routes could be privatised if the new BusConnects reconfiguration goes ahead, it emerged that the National Transport Authority (NTA) are considering scrapping 'underused' routes. The new operator, Go Ahead, secured contracts to take over 24 bus runs - 10% of the Dublin network.
Lament for Kent Station
Kent Station, in Cork city will have a BusConnects contracted bus terminus, in 2017, a large part of the Kent Station lands were granted to a private construction firm in a 'partnership with CIE property for a large-scale office complex called “Horgans Quay.”
This Kent Station development now includes the adjacent Penrose Quay lands and former rail station. The lands which could have been the nucleus of a combined Central rail and bus station for Cork city, has now been granted to a multinational corporation.
It is to also to be noted that the National Transport Authority has already begun to contract out former Bus Éireann routes in Dublin city itself.
In 2018, a new blue colour scheme with flashings of green and white was adopted on the buses used by the private contractor Go Ahead when it commenced operating the 24 routes contracted to it in Dublin city by the NTA. The authority has the powers to implement a single brand and colour scheme to be used by all transport operators in the capital, including new Dublin Bus vehicles from 2019. This raised fears that the privatisation of Dublin Bus services has already begun.
BusConnects and Dublin Traffic
There is not much evidence that the “BusConnects” bus priority routes will reduce private traffic or even road speed in the designated cities of Cork and Dublin. To give one example, Phibsborough, is a major traffic junction in Dublin where the R108 road (connecting to Finglas), the R135 (the N2 Motorway) and the R147 (the N3 Motorway) converge into the city centre.
Phibsborough will see no change in traffic volumes or perhaps increased levels due to the priority bus route proposal. In fact, local residents’ groups requested a 30 kilometres per hour speed limit on the main routes through Phibsborough village, however, the BusConnects proposals specifically set them at 50 kilometers per hour.
It is to be noted that the Transport Authority's priority in Phibsborough was for the road routes over local pedestrians safety, that is, primary route road access into the city centre.
It was reported that the contracting phrase is to proceed rapidly as tenders to appoint a number of engineering design teams for the initial stages of BusConnects Cork were issued last September. The taxpayer will fund a private bus network for Cork city at a cost of €545 million.
Current NTA Cork Road Plans
Meanwhile, there will be 50 kilometres of National and 70 kilometres of Regional road works to commence. The Dunkettle Interchange Upgrade is due to be completed by 2022. The
M28 Cork to Ringaskiddy Road to be completed by 2028, officials stated that they had no working estimate for the project, never mind a final budget. One figure for the M28 was €1.2 billion. The proposed Cork Northern Ring Road has a date of completion of 2035, the same date as the planned coastal element of the Dublin Eastern Bypass.
The NTA propose a ‘dedicated public transport corridor’ (bus lane) on the N27 national primary route to Cork Airport. The new Northern and Southern Distributor roads are also proposed, as are proposed HGV restrictions in Cork city centre. The NTA estimate the final cost of these proposals as €1.39 billion.
It is important to emphasize that what is being proposed is a private light rail line and a private bus service acting as a public utility for private profit, these will use public roads and access stations free of charge. Light rail will not prevent road congestion, as this service alone does not possess the needed capacity to provide an alternative to cars, as Dublin's ‘transport’ network demonstrates.
The NTA's busconnects planned bus corridors in Cork and Dublin will reinforce, not eliminate, the dominance of the car. The Cork ‘Luas’ light rail proposals exclude densely populated commuter areas in Cork's southern suburbs: such as those in Carrigaline, Passage West, Rochestown, Douglas, and Togher. These were eliminated from the NTA plan, making the light rail plan redundant except as an access line to the South Docks.
Light rail has failed as an alternative to cars in Dublin city and this will prove to be the case on this single proposed light rail line in Cork city. In both Dublin and Cork, the Luas tram lines act as a screen for a massive increase in road building projects in Dublin, Limerick and Cork.
Massive expansion of the the existing rail networks and bus in Dublin, Cork and Limerick is a necessity to eliminate car dependency with a network of car parks outside these cities, this can be linked to light rail lines into the city, but light rail alone does not possess the capacity to act as an alternative to the car.
Rail expansion should be based on existing public rail services which need to be expanded and developed and not eliminated and sold off, as was the case with the former Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway (Bantry to Albert Quay) railway line, closed in the 1960's. The south link road in Cork city (part of the N27) was built over the railway line. The former Cork city railway yards (are now a strategic development zone for developers. -
Part 2 of this series will deal with the Transport Authority's Cork rail proposals and the development of Kent/Horgan's Quay station lands in Cork City.