Public transport, walking and cycling are set to be the big winners in the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (LSMATS), the draft of which has been published by the National Transport Authority (NTA), in collaboration with Limerick City and County Council, Clare County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland.
Public consultation on the draft Strategy commences today and continues until October 16.
One of the main ambitions of the plan is to radically transform the cycling environment so that anyone of any age will feel safe and confident enough to cycle to work, school, college and other activities. The NTA hopes that this will lead to a boom in the numbers of people cycling within Limerick City and suburbs, Shannon and other towns and villages.
A cycling network totalling 184km is proposed, of which 103km is to be cycle tracks and greenways that are fully segregated from traffic. That is in comparison to the total 34km cycle infrastructure of mixed quality that is currently in existence.
The document envisages a fully-connected high-quality cycle network linking all major origins and destinations within the area and an inter-urban network connecting Limerick City and metropolitan town centres.
Segregated cycle lanes are the most desirable infrastructure for primary routes in terms of safety and comfort. Under the strategy, cycling infrastructure will be developed along a number of primary routes including:
– Mungret to City Centre via Ballinacurra Rd, South Circular Road and Henry Street
– Ballysimon Road
– City Centre to University of Limerick and National Technology Park along Dublin Road, Old Dublin Road and Plassey Park Road
– City Centre to Westbury and Ardnacrusha along Corbally Road
– Caherdavin Cross to Sarsfield Bridge via Cratloe Road, Sexton St., High Road, Bellefield Gardens and Clancy’s Strand
– Ennis Road to Sarsfield Bridge
– Childers Road
Buses are an extremely efficient mode of transport and as part of the Strategy a comprehensive BusConnects package for Limerick and Shannon is proposed. The flexibility of buses means that routes and frequencies can be quickly adapted to support phases of new development or as circumstances dictate. Buses will also perform an increasingly important role as Park and Ride facilities are developed.
Prioritising bus services is critical to the delivery of an efficient, frequent and reliable bus system and achieving priority will be an integral part of the overall BusConnects programme in Limerick and Shannon.
As part of the Strategy, bus priority will be dramatically improved by reallocating road space, investment in Advance Bus Signalisation, development of bus gates, and the acquisition of land to accommodate bus lanes where required.
In 2019, a scheme to redesign O’Connell Street was approved by Limerick City and County Council. As part of that approved scheme, the potential for full two-way bus priority was incorporated into the design and planning. O’Connell Street is the preferred option for Limerick’s main public transport spine for both services and for bus priority measures.
As part of Bus Connects Limerick, Sarsfield Bridge is proposed to provide for two-way bus priority, cycling and walking only.
Priority signals and other measures will be looked at to ensure that buses travelling to and from Limerick City Centre are not subject to undue delay on Thomond and Shannon Bridges.
Local and regional bus connectivity to Shannon town centre, employment areas and Airport are to be improved.
For rail, a move to higher speeds and/or electrification for inter-city services is to be examined.
NTA, Iarnród Eireann, and both local authorities intend to examine the feasibility of providing a dualtrack between Limerick Colbert and Limerick Junction to facilitate improved national and regional connectivity.
It is the intention of the NTA and the Limerick City and County Council to work in collaboration with Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann and other relevant stakeholders to complete the redevelopment of Colbert rail and bus station to provide a more attractive, secure and comfortable experience for passengers. The NTA is also committed to working closely with the Land Development Agency to realise their objectives for the site to the rear of Colbert Station, including examining the feasibility of a bus-only link behind Colbert Station on Roxboro Road and enhanced pedestrian, cycle and bus connectivity to the City Centre.
In regard to the road and street network, the LSMATS provides for the progress of a number of important road schemes including the N19 Shannon Airport Access Road and the Limerick Northern Distributor Road.
The NTA, TII, and local authorities will maintain, manage, and operate the existing road infrastructure more efficiently by managing the road network to discourage traffic in built-up areas, and road space in Limerick City and Shannon will be reallocated to prioritise walking, cycling, and public transport use.
The National Planning Framework 2040 (NPF) envisages that the Limerick-Shannon Metropolitan Area (LSMA) will become the growth engine of the Mid-West Region with projected growth of at least 50% during the period up to 2040. This projected population, employment and education growth brings with it opportunities for the development of the LSMA.
This projected population and associated economic growth will also result in a significant increase in the demand for travel. This demand needs to be managed and planned for carefully in order to safeguard and enhance the LSMA’s attractiveness to live, work, visit and invest in.
Dr Pat Daly, Chief Executive, Limerick City and County Council said: “The new transport strategy for Limerick is an ambitious project that will help transform Limerick into a sustainable city, with cycling, walking and public transport key elements.
“Providing quality bus corridors on routes into the city will help to entice more people from their cars on to public transport. Some of the proposals will involve change and the prioritisation of public transport over private cars so I would encourage everyone to get involved in the consultation process and have your say around the future of sustainable transport in Limerick.”
Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council said: “Clare County Council is fully supportive of the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (LSMATS) and will continue to assist the NTA in its development.
“In the coming years, once complete, this Strategy will be used to inform and prioritise funding for transport infrastructure in the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area as the major growth engine for the Mid-West.”
Anne Graham, Chief Executive Officer, National Transport Authority said: “The Strategy we are presenting today is a potential game-changer for the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area.
“We want to make it easier for people to get around by reducing congestion, and to make this place more attractive for people who live here, work here, or who want to visit here.
“We also want to make sure that more and more people will have a sustainable alternative when it comes to transport.
“The Public Consultation begins today, so I would urge everybody to look at our plans and participate in the process. That’s the best way for us to get a good understanding as to what people are responding positively to, and what concerns there may be.”