CALLS are growing louder for the National Transport Authority (NTA) to set up an office in Cork to deliver its ambitious infrastructure plans for the county.
The €3.5bn Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) is set to be adopted by both city and county councils by the end of the year and the NTA has repeatedly been urged by city councillors and Cork Chamber to open an office in Cork to deal with local authorities, stakeholders and the public.
Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer has now said the NTA is “wrong” not to immediately establish a presence on Leeside.
“It is an ambitious plan for the city and county of Cork, in particular, the metropolitan area of Cork city. It is about accessibility, integrating public transport services, walking and cycling infrastructure,” Mr Buttimer said.
“The NTA should have a regional office in Cork to drive the Cork metropolitan area strategy. If we are serious about providing public transport, investing in cycling infrastructure and the regions beyond the M50, the NTA's decision not to locate a regional office in Cork as the lead agency for the Cork metropolitan area strategy is wrong. It is worth examining the issue,” Mr Buttimer added.
Cork City Council went as far as writing a letter to the NTA asking it to address the issue in September which was met with a lukewarm response.
“The NTA does not have any plans at present to open a regional office in Cork. However, we remain committed to assisting in the delivery of an enhanced public and sustainable transport system in the Cork metropolitan area, guided by the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy which is [in the] process of finalisation following feedback from the recent public consultation process,” said deputy chief executive of the NTA Hugh Creegan.
“This issue of a potential regional office for NTA activities will be kept under review,” Mr Creegan added.
The CMATS plan includes significant investment in road, rail, cycling and walking infrastructure, culminating in a light rail system that is slated to be completed by 2040. CMATS envisages a 25-stop, 17km light rail network running from the N22 west of Ballincollig all the way to Mahon.
It is estimated it could carry 46 million people per annum on 27 trams. The €1bn plan is the first real schematic of an idea that has been mooted since the 1990s.
However, it has been dismissed in some quarters as being too costly and not realistic to deliver before 2040.