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The Northern Ring Road and a motorway to Limerick will not solve Cork's traffic problems, according to a UCC lecturer. Pic: Larry Cummins
The Northern Ring Road and a motorway to Limerick will not solve Cork's traffic problems, according to a UCC lecturer. Pic: Larry Cummins
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UCC economist says 'no need' for Cork Northern Ring Road or M20

A UCC economist has claimed Cork does not need a Northern Ring Road or a motorway to Limerick, deeming the projects a "waste of resources and time". 

Dr Frank Crowley of the Spatial and Regional Economic Research Centre at UCC's Cork University Business School says public transport should be invested in instead, in order to relieve traffic congestion. 

"Cork is currently suffering from a major car congestion problem. Three out every four people in the Cork region commute by unsustainable means. 

"The region is planning to accommodate a significant increase in population by 2040, and more roads will simply mean more traffic unless a price is put on using roads in the region."

Dr Crowley says the price we are currently paying for this is serious traffic congestion. 

"Traffic is a space problem. In the Cork region, most people converge daily to the main employment areas of Little Island, Mahon, the Harbour, the City, the Airport and Blackpool. 

"By encouraging more car use, we will be dumping more traffic and tailbacks onto these areas, where there is actually no more space to accommodate traffic. 

"[A Northern Ring Road] will just lead to more congestion and that simply does not make sense. At this time, it would be a waste of money as it will not alleviate the major traffic bottlenecks around our main employment zones or city. We need to reduce car use, not induce it."

The UCC lecturer believes that building an entire motorway from Cork to Limerick is misguided because it will promote urban sprawl and commuting.

A map showing the possible route of the Northern Ring Road.
A map showing the possible route of the Northern Ring Road.

"Cities that are more compact benefit from a greater degree of clustering by people and firms. It creates more learning effects, it is economically more efficient to provide public services and it is more environmentally sustainable. 

"Building a motorway between Cork and Limerick will encourage sprawl, longer car commutes and increase the costs of providing public services. 

"It will also just dump an increased number of cars at both ends of the motorway, in Cork and Limerick [cities]. Again, this is not the time to invest in a major motorway as the costs presently outweigh the benefits."

When asked about how the bus services from Cork to Limerick can improve without first improving the road, Dr Crowley believes partial upgrades to the road would be better.

"The Cork to Limerick road needs to be upgraded in places with bypasses, however, that does not necessarily mean a complete motorway is needed. 

"We need to completely move away from buses sharing the road with cars in built-up areas.

"Buses need their own designated space, separated from cars, wherever traffic may be a problem. Public transport has to be rapid transit and has to be faster than going by private car. 

"And we also have to note that there is a railway along much of the intended route. Building a motorway will significantly reduce the likelihood of people using the railway."

However, there are currently no direct trains from Cork to Limerick, with most passengers requiring to switch at Limerick junction, with varying wait times between the two trains. 

Dr Crowley believes investment in major road projects is not the solution to Cork's traffic problems. 

"The sole focus transport wise in the Cork region over the next decade should be completely on transforming the public transport and cycling infrastructure in the region. The city region needs a rapid public transport network and a complete cycling network. 

"These are the interventions that will reduce traffic for car drivers, encourage people to kick the car and in turn will make the city more liveable, healthy, and sustainable to live in.

"Investing in sustainable transport is a win-win for everyone and collectively for the city and businesses."

Yesterday, The Echo revealed that Cork's Northern Ring Road will not be delivered until after 2027, according to the Department of Transport. 

The N20 upgrade for the Cork to Limerick road is earmarked for completion first, as part of Project Ireland 2040. 

The preferred route selected in 2007 for the western section of the Northern Ring Road that would link the Ballincollig bypass to the Limerick road.
The preferred route selected in 2007 for the western section of the Northern Ring Road that would link the Ballincollig bypass to the Limerick road.