A CORK TD has called on the Minister for Transport to consider instructing the National Transport Authority (NTA) to delay the closing date for submissions on BusConnects Cork STC routes pending the publication of traffic data.
“The NTA plans will have serious consequences for businesses, workers, constituents, communities and people’s lives. That is why the publication of the traffic data in advance of the closing date is essential,” said Sinn Féin Cork North Central TD, Deputy Thomas Gould, during a Dáil debate.
Submissions made so far have been carefully considered by the authority and have informed the most recent round of public consultations on what are now the preferred route options for the 11 corridors, said Transport Minister Eamon Ryan. The consultation will run until May 25.
“The Deputy will acknowledge that transport modelling is a highly complex and technical area and I have been advised that it is most useful to undertake it when the details of schemes are broadly finalised, which is not the case yet,” said Mr Ryan.
“We need BusConnects in Cork, but we need it to be credible,” said Mr Gould.
“The first round of consultation was done by the NTA without traffic data, which means the routes that were drawn up did not have the data to support them, which does not make sense. We must be led by data and by science. They should reflect the need on the ground, and they should be credible.
“Instead, we got proposals that were not even viable and that caused huge concern among communities. Even the NTA possibly agrees with this because there have been huge changes to the original plan compared with the plan we are looking at now. This creates an imbalance of power between communities and the authority.
“Communities in places such as Mayfield, Ballyphehane, Knocknaheeny and Bishopstown do not have the same resources as the NTA but they have local knowledge on the ground that we need to include in the plan.”
That local knowledge helped to inform the significant change that took place between the first and second iterations, added Mr Gould.
Mr Gould said he had concerns stemming from the Dublin experience of BusConnects. “Similar to Cork, the original routes focused too much on lane extensions and creating big corridors rather than building communities.”
Mr Gould met with representatives of the NTA last week. “With Councillors Kevin Collins and Mick Nugent and my personal assistant, we went through the proposal line by line. This plan needs to be credible, and the people of Cork need it to work.
“We want to get people out of their cars, but if we do not get this plan right now, there will be consequences down the line.
“We are talking about an expenditure of €600 million. One of the main proposals is to remove traffic along the main spine roads in Cork city. I live in Cathedral Road and there is talk of installing a bus gate on the road, which will drive people up Wolfe Tone Street, Cattle Market Avenue, Blarney Street and Sunday’s Well.
“Anyone who knows Cork could tell the Minister that St Declan’s Road and Gurranbraher Avenue are terraces. We need BusConnects to listen to the people and we will work with it as best we can.” Mr Ryan said he agreed about the consequences of not listening.
“People do like when there is provision of better public transport. The great attractiveness of some of these projects is not just that they improve the transport system but that they improve the streets and the whole city. That will be the experience in Cork. It is not easy.
“Change is never easy to deliver and there are understandable fears. However, it is our job as public representatives to make the final decisions, assisted by the NTA, so that we make the leap. It will be a leap to a much more attractive, effective and successful Cork city,” he said.
Mr Gould said this will not be possible without the northern ring road.
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