THE development of a train station at Kilbarry has been identified as the key to unlocking the regeneration of Blackpool and calls are growing for it to be prioritised to battle increasing congestion on the northside.
The Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) 2040 draft plan lists Kilbarry as a site for a potential new station to link up with Blarney and Monard via Kent station.
Lord Mayor John Sheehan runs a GP practice on Thomas Davis Street in Blackpool and has joined the growing chorus of voices calling for the station - first planned in 2008 - to finally be built to exploit the potential for increased suburban rail services.
“Given the growth that’s planned for Blackpool and the surrounding area for housing and offices and retail, it certainly should be a priority,” said Lord Mayor Sheehan.
“I know a lot of businesses, myself included, paid contributions as part of our development levies with the hope Kilbarry train station was going to open but that money was spent on other parts of the suburban network, and that is fair enough. However, Kilbarry would unlock a lot of the potential of the northside.
“People would be able to commute into the city, you’d have people coming in from Mallow. Congestion is growing a lot around the area and its traffic capacity is going to become fairly limited. It won't take a lot for Blackpool to turn into a complete bottleneck so I think it the National Transport Authority (NTA) should absolutely prioritise it,” Mr Sheehan added.
The N20 coming into the city from Mallow has been shown to be 120% over capacity by a recent report from Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the Northern Ring Road is not included in the Government’s 2040 Project Ireland capital plan.
However, the surrounding area of Blackpool is set for a major population boost in the next five years with housing developments on the Old Whitechurch bringing up to 800 new homes.
Plans for a train station on the site date back 11 years to when Irish Rail applied for planning permission for a station on Kilbarry before funding was lost during the recession.
Cork Chamber has urged the NTA to prioritise the long-mooted train station to allow Blackpool to become one of the major growth areas in Cork and has identified it as a “quick win” in the CMATS plan.
In its CMATS submission, the Chamber stated: “Blackpool is an area that has a strong growth agenda and ambition driven by some of the most progressive and rapidly growing companies in Ireland.
“Kilbarry train station is critical to securing further investment in this city location and to helping address the infrastructural deficit of the north side of Cork city. Given that the existing railway already runs immediately past the main employment areas in Blackpool, there is an opportunity for a quick win by prioritising the development of Kilbarry train station.
“The addition of the Kilbarry railway station will maximise the existing rail infrastructure, and permeability of the Blackpool area and its growing importance as an employment hub to commuters from North Cork, East Cork and City.”