Cork is becoming ‘strangled’ by traffic

Cork is becoming ‘strangled’ by traffic
Early morning traffic building up on the N40 near Mahon

MOST of Cork city and county’s busiest roads have been shown to be majorly overworked.

The latest Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) National Road Network Indicators report shows that national primary roads are under severe strain.

The Kinsale Road section of the South Ring Road has been identified as a traffic hotspot, with an average of 86,000 vehicles per day travelling on it. It’s operating at 120% of capacity — as is the Cork to Limerick section of the N20 coming into the city.

National secondary roads are also experiencing volumes above what they were built for, with the N71 from Cork city to Skibbereen and N72 from Mallow to Killarney showing traffic volumes at 20% over capacity.

It’s likely this trend will continue.

Rush hour traffic in the morning backed up along the way down St. Patrick's Hill, Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.
Rush hour traffic in the morning backed up along the way down St. Patrick's Hill, Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

The Cork to Limerick motorway has a provisional delivery date of 2027, while a Northern Ring Road has not been included in the Government capital project plans — despite designs being drawn up over 15 years ago.

Works to improve the Dunkettle Interchange continue, but the M28 Cork to Ringaskiddy motorway has been held up by a High Court challenge.

The Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy, due for publication in the coming weeks, promises a “total package” for sustainable transport, including proposals for Luas-style modes of transport and a rapid bus system — but these are years away from being completed.

Meanwhile, TII has said increases in traffic levels can be attributed to an improving economy, with more and more cars expected to come onto Irish roads year-on-year.

“The continued growth in the Irish economy is reflected by the growth in traffic on the national roads network. Increased economic activity outside of the Dublin region is apparent, with further annual average daily traffic (AADT) growth being experienced on the N40 Cork South Ring Road in 2018,” the report stated.

“Several sections of the N40 Cork Southern Ring Road carry in excess of 80,000 vehicles on an average day.”

Conor Faughnan, director of consumer affairs at the AA, said Cork is in danger of being “strangled by traffic” and believes the development of public transport infrastructure for light rail and other alternative modes is too slow.

“It is one of the frustrations that everyone in planning and transport in Ireland feels. We live in a great democracy in many ways, but it is so slow when you are trying to get anything done — painfully slow.

“We’ve never built infrastructure and regretted it, but we seem to agonise forever about the cost of things and individual route alignment and we just don’t get things done. If you contrast the pace of development that occurs right around the world and more comparable countries in Europe, they are not as delayed as in Ireland when they decide to do something.

In Cork, it’s a similiar frustration. It’s a very typical Irish city in the sense that all of the problems that exist in Dublin and Galway exist in Cork as well. It is a busy city and it is thriving.

“We know now, and we are certain, that Cork will need very significant improvement in its public transport if it is not to be strangled by its traffic in the same way that Dublin has been.

“We should be looking at things like light rail and Luas lines for Cork and we should be planning alignments and acquiring space for them and getting ready to put them in.

“Unfortunately, in our infrastructure investment in Ireland, there tends to be a huge emphasis on roads rather than spending on public transport infrastructure,” he added.

New Cork Chamber president Paula Cogan has highlighted the need for more infrastructure development investment in Cork than is currently being pumped in.

“It is essential that the commitments of Ireland 2040 are delivered, or our confidence will be undermined. Infrastructure is the neutral enabler. From bike schemes to bus corridors and motorways, each has their part to play in creating a city that is globally magnetic,” she said.

Traffic on the South Ring Road
Traffic on the South Ring Road

“Ultimately, we are 14 months from the announcement of Ireland 2040 and progress, relative to that delivered by the private sector, is slow. We need a laser-sharp delivery focus from Government in 2019 or our reputation for infrastructural delivery among the global and local business community will be on the line.”

Mr Faughnan said economic growth brings more cars and this is just a fact that has to be adapted to.

“The is a real correlation between economic growth and the amount of cars on the road. Certainly, we could solve Cork’s traffic problem tomorrow by slashing Cork’s economy, but nobody wants to do that. The only way we can tackle this is by investing in public transport,” he said.

“Dublin has built three Luas lines in 30 years of talking about it, that’s pathetic. It’s the capital city and much bigger than Cork. The criticism of those lines is that they are stuffed full and you can’t get on them at peak times.

“Let’s say we spent the Celtic Tiger years building 20 Luas lines and nine in Cork and four in Galway, we would have been delighted to make the investment and it would have paid us back many times over.

“That equation is basically still true.

“It’s hard to get investment into public transport because it is a lot of money and it’s hard to know if you’re going to earn it back, but every time you do get it back, there is a boost for the local economy. Dublin and Cork are cities that tend to talk a good game with planning, but when it comes to actually physically doing something, progress can be painfully slow,” he added.

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