Reader letter: A solution to Cork public transport issues

A Cork exile who frequently visits the city and county shares his thoughts on how we can address public transport
Reader letter: A solution to Cork public transport issues

The existing rail service for Midleton is superb, says a reader

‘COMMUTER rail service’ enhancements and the hugely costly ‘Bus Connects’ network appear to confirm that Cork’s public transport strategy needs to go back to the drawing board, before any more money is wasted on what will have very limited improvements for the overwhelming majority of Cork commuters and leisure travellers.

As a regular user of the reopened Midleton rail route on my frequent trips to relations in East Cork, I regard the existing service as superb, especially as trains are now every 30 minutes on weekdays and they have been running on time even in foul weather.

But surely, rather than build a second track alongside the existing single one from Glounthaune to Midleton, the money would be better spent reopening the remainder of the route to the seaside resort of Youghal?

Instead, what the County Council has done is spend millions on converting a priceless mass transit route into a so-called ‘greenway’ for cyclists and pedestrians, effectively leading from nowhere to nowhere.

As a cyclist myself, I find the greenway does not connect with nearby residential roads at many of the former bridges crossing the old rail route, and it goes nowhere near the town centre or villages nearby where safe, segregated cycle routes are far more urgently needed.

Far better would be to reinstate the rail route in its entirety and build new, true ‘Greenways’ through shopping areas, industrial parks and neighbourhoods, alongside rivers and roads.

Similarly, the expenditure of large sums of money on ‘one new platform’ at Cork Ceannt Station to enable ‘through services between Cobh and Mallow’ will merely result in major conflicts in rail services because the slow Cobh-Mallow trains will be obstructing the fast Dublin/Cork Intercity trains entering and leaving the station.

As future plans to electrify the Dublin-Cork route with much faster ‘ICE’ style trains come to fruition in the next 10 years, it will be far better to leave Mallow as a stop for Intercity trains only, including the possibility of a Cork-Mallow-Charleville-Patrickswell Limerick service if the disused Charleville-Patrickswell line is reopened.

Cork Ceannt Station could also be sold and redeveloped and a new Intercity station and tram/bus interchange built at Capwell/Merchants Quay, linked by a new rail bridge across the Lee.

This will also be enabled by converting the Cobh and Midleton/Youghal branches into a ‘tram-train’ service which can run on streets, through the city centre and onward on reopened former rail routes to destinations such as Mahon, Waterfall, Bandon, Blarney and even Kinsale, using hybrid battery powered trains at the outer ends of longer routes.

In Sheffield, where I live, there is such a ‘Tram Train’ in operation which runs on the streets and also on a section of mainline railway to Rotherham, which despite some imperfections, is a successful compromise between modes of transport.

Rather than spend a staggering €500 million on a few more buses and so-called quality bus corridors, it would be far better to spend that on reopening the city centre-Mahon rail route as a Light Rail route and connecting it to the Cobh route which would also be electrified at the same time.

Bringing Cork a new, showpiece rapid transit route through the city centre, with fully accessible low floored trams like Dublin’s LUAS, rather than buying a huge fleet of yet more diabolical double decker buses (totally unsuitable for elderly/disabled passengers, families with prams and pushchairs, people with heavy luggage, etc.) will start the ball rolling to connect every major suburban node around Cork city with a true cross city network.

The vision I have been working on for such a network I have christened A.L.V.I.N. (Axial Lee Valley Integrated Network), and if the transport planners really get their heads together and undergo a bit more educating to true passenger needs, they CAN achieve it in the not too distant future.

Dan J. J. Kahn, Norwich Street, Sheffield, England

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