Here’s a fantasy light rail network for Cork

Patrick Street, Cork. Image: Dylan/Wikimedia Commons.

Here we go again: another fantasy metro network courtesy of a young reader…

Transport in the city of Cork hasn’t managed to keep up with the growing demands of its population. The greater Cork City area has seen an immense amount of growth over recent years, as more and more investment and development has been created in the city. Because of all this, Cork has become a very attractive place to live and work, and the city boundary has even enlarged to account for all this growth.

And these increases in population and development are set to continue into the future. In particular, the former Docklands area is set to receive a multi-million euro redevelopment, and development is planned for other areas of the city. And along with this will come a dramatic increase of population: the council estimates the city’s population will more than double to 500,000 by 2050.

Yet the city already has one of the worst rates of congestion in Ireland – commuters spend an average of 40 minutes stuck in gridlock each day, and rates are only increasing. Between 2015 and 2017, areas such as the South Link Road added 4,000 cars to the daily load.

Herein lies the problem. If transport is ineffectual now, think - what on earth might it look like in the future?

It is clear that the state of public transportation in Cork City needs a long term solution. Though some efforts have been made, these are all short-term solutions. While made with the best of intentions, they will not significantly halt congestion, nor prevent the gaps in public transport service from worsening as time goes on.

So what is the long-term remedy to Cork’s transportation woes? To follow Dublin’s lead in the creation of a light rail system in Cork.

The prospect of a Luas for Cork is certainly not a new idea. The boom years of the mid-2000s reignited interest in a system, as the positives of Dublin’s own newly opened Luas became evident. A promised investigative study never finished, due to the burst of the housing bubble.


But the prospect of a Cork Luas has recently become more probable: the Ireland 2040 infrastructure plan has promised one, albeit in very scant detail. The long-awaited Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy is expected to give detail on a potential light rail in Cork. 

Such a scheme would have several goals in mind – to connect suburbs with the City centre, link areas of development, and connect with as many services and amenities as possible. Such plans will be most effective in two different lines - one going east to west, and another north to south.

The primary route, from Ballincollig in the west to Mahon in the east, would serve a variety of Cork’s institutions, including the colleges and the future Docklands area. It also can connect the suburb towns of Ballincollig, Bishopstown, Blackrock, and Mahon.

A secondary route running from the Airport to Hollyhill would connect some of Cork’s most important facilities, such as the airport, and a variety of business parks, notably Apple’s European Distribution Headquarters. Of course, the city will look rather different in the future, so there’s always the possibility for expansion. Connections to the Suburban Rail at Kent Station, which serves areas such as Carrigtohill, Cobh, and Mallow, are also a must. 

Click to expand.

Once up and running, the Cork Luas will benefit the city in a number of ways. Usage of public transportation will increase, especially in areas situated near the route. Cars will be taken off the road, improving journey times for drivers, while public transport will become more reliable due to the lane-separated nature of the system. A decreased numbers of cars on the roads will be a positive step in reducing the amount of carbon emissions, helping Ireland to achieve its EU-set climate goals. In addition, the higher capacity of the Luas would mean that the city is future-proofed for expected population growth. 

There will of course be the expected challenges associated with introducing light rail to Cork, but these must not deter us. The introduction of light rail to Cork will provide the city with the desperately needed long-term solution to public transport problems. Such a service will alleviate an increasingly significant problem throughout the city, all while providing Cork with a valuable tool for further growth and development. 

Ciarán Meers is a secondary school student. You can read his full 80-page proposal here.

 
 
 
 

Community-powered policies should be at the top of Westminster’s to do list

A generic election picture. Image: Getty.

Over the past five decades, political and economic power has become increasingly concentrated in the UK’s capital. Communities feel ignored or alienated by a politics that feels distant and unrepresentative of their daily experiences.

Since the EU referendum result it has become something of a cliché to talk about how to respond to the sense of powerlessness felt by too many people. The foundations of our economy have been shifted by Brexit, technology and deindustrialisation – and these have shone a light on a growing divergence in views and values across geographies and generations. They are both a symptom and cause of the breakdown of the ties that traditionally brought people together.

As the country goes through seismic changes in its outlook, politics and economy, it is clear that a new way of doing politics is needed. Empowering people to take control over the things that affect their daily lives cannot be done from the top down.

Last week, the Co-operative Party launched our policy platform for the General Election – the ideas and priorities we hope to see at the top of the next Parliament’s to do list. We have been the voice for co-operative values and principles in the places where decisions are made and laws are made. As co-operators, we believe that the principles that lie behind successful co‑operatives – democratic control by customers and workers, and a fair share of the wealth we create together – ought to extend to the wider economy and our society. As Labour’s sister party, we campaign for a government that puts these shared values into practice.

Our policy platform has community power at its heart, because the co-operative movement, founded on shop floors and factory production lines, knows that power should flow from the bottom up. Today, this principle holds strong – decisions are best made by the people impacted the most by them, and services work best when the service users have a voice. Our policy platform is clear: this means shifting power from Whitehall to local government, but it also means looking beyond the town hall. Co-operative approaches are about placing power directly in the hands of people and communities.


There are many great examples of Co-operative councillors and local communities taking the lead on this. Co-operative councils like Oldham and Plymouth have pioneered new working relationships with residents, underpinned by a genuine commitment to working with communities rather than merely doing things to them.

Building a fairer future is, by definition, a bottom-up endeavour. Oldham, Plymouth and examples like the Elephant Project in Greater Manchester, where people with experience of disadvantage are involved in decision-making, or buses in Witney run by Co-operative councillors and the local community – are the building blocks of creating a better politics and a fairer economy.

This thread runs through our work over the last few years on community wealth building too – keeping wealth circulating in local economies through growing the local co-operative sector. Worker-owned businesses thriving at the expense of global corporate giants and private outsourcers. Assets owned by communities – from pubs to post offices to rooftop solar panels.

And it runs through our work in Westminster too – with Co-operative MPs and peers calling for parents, not private business, to own and run nurseries; for the stewards of our countryside to be farmers rather than big landowners; and for workers to have a stake in their workplaces and a share of the profit.

Far from being ignored, as suggested in last week’s article on community power, our work has never been more relevant and our co-operative voice is louder than ever.

Anna Birley is policy offer at the Co-operative party.