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More bus lanes needed before second Cork park and ride

More bus lanes are needed before a second bus-based park and ride facility can be developed in Cork, officials have insisted.

The city council’s director of services in the roads and transportation directorate, Gerry O’Beirne, said that’s the view of the National Transport Authority (NTA) which oversees the development of bus lanes, and the PSO contract with Bus Eireann for the operation the city’s only park and ride service at Black Ash.

He also said there are no plans to amend the route or timetable of the city’s only park and ride service at the moment.

Mr O'Beirne was speaking at a council meeting on Monday which heard calls from SF Cllr Thomas Gould for the service to open even earlier in the morning.

Mr Gould said with more and more people working in the city centre, it made sense to encourage people to make the switch to public transport.

He had tabled a motion calling for the park and ride to start running buses 30-minutes earlier, at 6.30am, to help facilitate more commuters.

But Mr O’Beirne said in order to justify state investment in the development of a park and ride service, the service must be able to compete effectively with traffic and move passengers more effectively and more efficiently than private cars.

To do that, the service needs to have dedicated bus lanes, he said.

Currently, just 14.3km of the 625km of road network in Cork city and suburbs - or 2.2% - is bus lane and many of those operate for just a few hours a day.

The Black Ash park and ride route and operating hours were extended last August to help support the reintroduction of the St Patrick’s St bus lanes, opening at 6.45am, with the first bus departing at 7am along a looped-route taking in Merchant’s Quay, St Patrick’s St, Grand Parade and South Mall, until 8pm.

“Any changes to the schedule or route would be at the consideration of the NTA. No further amendments to the route or schedule are proposed at this time,” Mr O’Beirne said.

The meeting also heard calls for increased enforcement of parking laws in bus and bike lanes after FG Cllr Joe Kavanagh was told that in 2017, 123 fines were issued to motorists for parking on a cycle track, with 120 fines issued last year. By comparison, in 2017, 307 fines were issued for parking in a bus lane while the figure slumped to 192 last year.

Separately, momentum is building behind the CyclingWorks Cork campaign which is urging employers to make a collective call for the development of a coherent and high-quality city-wide cycle network.

Some of the city’s largest employers, including Teamwork and Voxpro, are among those supporting the campaign.

The NTA is due to publish the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Study for public consultation within weeks.

It is expected to focus heavily on improving the bus and cycle network, with €200m earmarked for a BusConnects scheme.