CORK could become the first city outside Dublin to have a Luas system as Transport Minister Noel Dempsey yesterday revealed a feasibility study on having a light rail system in the city was at an advanced stage.
Cork local authorities have commissioned consultants to provide an update of the Cork Area Strategic Plan examining the case for new city transport services.
They are expected to deliver a final report next summer, with recommendations about the cost-benefit of a Luas line for Cork.
The existing Cork Area Strategic Plan, published in 2001, suggests a role for light rail in order to cater for transport demands in the city up to 2020. Council sources indicate that there is a strong case for the construction of a light rail system running from the Douglas/Mahon area through the city centre via the docklands and on to Ballincollig, serving UCC and Victoria Cross en route.
“The continuing projected growth for the Cork area over the next 20 years would seem to strengthen the existing case that a light rail project is viable,” said one senior council official.
It is believed that a more detailed cost-benefit analysis would still have to be commissioned before the project would be passed to the Railway Procurement Agency, which would have responsibility for the delivery of any Luas project for Cork.
However, Mr Dempsey said it was still possible that rapid bus schemes could be a cheaper, speedier option than light rail projects.
Similar studies to examine the viability of light rail and rapid bus schemes in Limerick, Galway and Waterford are also set to get under way.
Mr Dempsey said a draft bill to set up the a Dublin transport authority (DTA) had been held up due to a formal complaint to the EU that the CIÉ subvention.
Mr Dempsey also expressed concern that transport needs were not reflected in many county development plans.
He said there were no surprises regarding the €3.8bn budget allocation as most projects had already be identified under the National Development Plan and Transport 21.