THE appointment of an engineering firm to develop designs and route options for the much-anticipated Cork Luas project has been hailed as an “encouraging step”.
Yesterday, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and the National Transport Authority (NTA) announced that Jacobs Engineering Ireland has been awarded the contract for the Cork Luas project.
A Luas line is proposed between Ballincollig and Mahon, which will be 17km in length.
Proposed stops along the line include UCC, CIT, Kent Station, Patrick’s Street, and Mahon Point.
The project is a key element in the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy, published by the NTA earlier this year.
Speaking to The Echo, Conor Faughnan, AA Director of Consumer Affairs, said the project should have commenced years ago but expressed his enthusiasm that it is now seeing some progression.
"It should have been done years ago but we can only start from the square we’re standing on," he said.
Mr Faughnan said the AA has always supported investment in public transport.
"We were strong supporters of Dublin’s Luas even when it was under construction and receiving criticism.
"I’ve said myself in the past that during that period of investment two Luas lines, subsequently extended, were built for Dublin and nothing else and we said at the time they should have built a dozen in Dublin, six in Cork, four in Galway, four in Limerick.
"We should have been investing in it right across the country,” he said.
"What the AA has said before is that we’ve never invested in this sort of public transport infrastructure and regretted it.
"Our only regret being is that we didn’t do more and faster and I think that applies now,” he added.
Mr Faughnan said he believes that once developed, the Cork Luas will help to ease the issue of traffic congestion in the city.
"Calling it a car problem is misdiagnosing it. The problem is a public transport deficit.
"Provide people with good quality public transport and they don’t need to be forced, they take to it in droves.
"That’s true of every city that it’s tried in.”
Mr Faughnan acknowledged the bus service, which he called the “workhorse of public transport”, but said Cork needs more substantive public transport infrastructure given its size.
TII Chief Executive Officer Michael Nolan said that he was very pleased to be able to announce the result of this Tender Competition.
"Light Rail has proven itself in many cities, including Dublin, and TII is very enthusiastic about working with the National Transport Authority and all the regional stakeholders in taking this project forward in Cork."
NTA Chief Executive Anne Graham said: “When the NTA met with the elected members of Cork City Council recently, it was clear to us that there was overwhelming support for the measures contained in the Transport Strategy.
“It was also clear to us that if the Strategy is to remain a credible document in the eyes of people in Cork, it is essential that progress is made on the delivery of the key elements, sooner rather than later.
“That is why today’s announcement is significant, and we believe that it is a clear signal that the implementation of the Strategy is now underway.”
The Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Joe Kavanagh echoed this, saying yesterday's announcement marked a "welcome signal of intent by the relevant stakeholders to progress this vital piece of public infrastructure", which he said is crucial to support the Cork's growing population.
Thomas McHugh, Director of Public Affairs at Cork Chamber said the introduction of light rail “has the potential to be transformative for our city region” and said the appointment of an engineering firm is “an encouraging step towards seeing CMATS become a reality”.