IT can be argued that when investigating Ireland’s transport sector and connectivity links, it is hard not to be pessimistic.
For one, despite the growing threats of climate change, the majority of Ireland still depends on cars, due to the lack of available and reliable transport links, which is perhaps most noticeable by the decline of railway connectivity.
Last month, the country witnessed a national embarrassment once again in the transport sector, this time through the scenes at Dublin Airport, which led to over 1,000 people missing their flights on a single Sunday.
This incident has once again shown that the centralisation of the transport links in Dublin has had disastrous consequences for the country, which has prevented Ireland from reaching its full potential in public transport terms. This would also indicate that decentralisation may present opportunities for a better-balanced transport system across the country.
I have always found when returning from Dublin that I am astonished by the various forms of transport systems available to the urban population, through the Luas, DART, bus, as well as the country’s largest airport.
While this is the standard for the majority of capital cities in Europe, I am often left wondering why other Irish cities like Cork, Galway, and Limerick do not have a variety of transport links as witnessed in Dublin. The answer for this, like many sectors in Ireland, is largely due to the centralisation of Ireland in which Dublin often gains the benefits. Despite this, many will surely be left pondering after the fiasco in Dublin Airport about whether it is finally the time for change and to decentralise transport networks across the country.
In order to achieve a more decentralised transport system in Ireland, I believe airports could play a crucial first step. In Munster, there are a few airports but with no disrespect to Kerry Airport, the development of a more decentralised transport system lies in the hands of Cork and Shannon Airports.
We have seen our national airport in Dublin struggle to deal with the demand, which clearly presents an opportunity to divide the load between three airports rather than depend solely on Dublin, which is clearly under immense pressure.
Establishing more international links amongst three major airports in Ireland, as opposed to one, would lead to a more decentralised transport system, which would benefit the country in a number of ways.
Firstly, it would lead to a decrease in pressure on Dublin Airport, while encouraging further opportunities for Cork and Shannon as well as their surrounding areas.
If Cork and Shannon were able to establish direct links with other countries across Europe, it could see an increase in tourism in these regions, which would provide major relief and revenue following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic for businesses there.
Furthermore, this strategy would likely add to the appeal of the regions for potential businesses to set up bases as well, as offering an alternative to Dublin.
Following Brexit, Cork is the second largest English-speaking city in the Union, which presents numerous opportunities for the city, particularly from companies from the U.S viewing to establish a European base.
When it comes to Limerick city, the development and expansion of Shannon Airport’s international links could also instill new hopes of further development in Ireland’s third largest city.
Additionally, further decentralising the airport system in Ireland could lead to the advancement of public transport systems in these regions, which proves that providing Cork and Shannon airports with increased international links is a crucial first step in the battle for the decentralisation of transport systems in Ireland.
While I believe the decentralisation of the airport system in Ireland is essential in order for the country to reach its full public transport systems potential, there are a number of changes that are needed before viewing the proposed decentralisation approach.
For one, there is a major need for the presence of a reliable and consistent airport to city centre shuttle bus service, particularly in the case of Cork Airport. Additionally, to increase the numbers going through these airports, I propose a reduction in car park pricing in Cork and Shannon airports may also generate more footfall going through these airports, which would further relieve the pressure on Dublin Airport, and thus prevent incidents like the ones witnessed last month from occurring again. Furthermore, if these airports are to attract customers, there is a need to have innovative measures in place such as self-check-in kiosks, embracing biometrics and facial recognition services, in order to make passengers’ travel experiences easier and enjoyable.
To conclude, the current systems of public transport in Ireland, especially outside of Dublin, can be best described as lacklustre. The need for change has never been so evident, as society has become aware of the need for major action to combat climate change as demands for sustainability increase.
As a result, the need for adequate and reliable public transport systems in Ireland is essential and one could argue that decentralising the airport system is the first step needed in order to achieve the decentralisation of the transport system in Ireland.
The decentralisation of the transport system is likely to lead to new opportunities such as attracting new companies and increasing tourism of different regions outside of Dublin, which would create a more balanced and accessible Ireland.