MINISTER of State Alan Kelly, in launching details of over €1.7 million of sustainable transport grants for the city, said he was “not happy with the volume of people who use bus transportation in Limerick”.
Mr Kelly was not just picking on Limerick, stressing that he had “an issue with the volume of bus services in regional cities”.
The Labour TD, Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport, made the remarks outside LIT as he announced details of funding that it is hoped will “change the dynamic of transportation” in the city.
The funds will be used to remove pinch-points, improve public transport, cycling and pedestrian links throughout the city.
Key parts of the plan will see €1m allocated for the completion of the bus lane on Ballinacurra Road, €200,000 on improving access to Colbert station, while €70,000 will also be spent on planning and design for improved cycling links between LIT and the city.
A cycle planner ‘app’ for the city will be commissioned as part of the funding, as well as various junction improvements to improve cycling in the city.
The funding will be administered by the National Transport Authority and is part of the overall smarter travel project implemented by the department. The €1.7m for 2014 is “more than what was projected initially” as part of that €9m project, the minister explained.
“I am not happy with the volume of people who use bus transportation in Limerick, we need to increase that and a lot of the changes we are making are to try and help that,” said Mr Kelly.
“There is huge will towards a change in the dynamic of transportation in Limerick, in particular we need to get more people out of cars, cycling and walking and public transport have to be promoted more.
“I believe that more people will use buses in particular if they know that they are going to be on time and there is going to be space on them. Real time passenger information facilitates that hugely and that is going to be rolled out across the city this year.
“All of this funding is designed to improve the public transport and cycling offering within Limerick city.
“All in all you are going to see fairly significant changes,” he added.
Limerick city and county manager Conn Murray said the funding was “extremely important” and would continue to add momentum towards the Limerick 2030 development plan.
“I think it is particularly important that every access point in the city is re-examined and the minister is enabling (us) now to add that, which was an important part of 2030,” he said.
“The Ballinacurra bus lane will continue and be delivered in the current year and there are some very nice additions in the context of the planning around the bus and train station.”
The improved cycling links between LIT and the city centre were welcomed by LIT’s Vice President Corporate Services and Capital Development, Jimmy Browne, who said that enhancing access between the institute’s Moylish campus and the city centre would be one of the “key facilitators of growth at LIT”.
Mr Kelly said there were “a number of pinch points on the way from LIT into the city centre and we need to look at ways that people can traverse those safely”.
“Pinch points basically means where there isn’t enough room for cycling or walking infrastructure, or potentially bus corridors, because there is only enough room for two vehicles on the road. We need to address those to provide a safer environment,” he explained.
“Bus Eireann, as regards their services, are working with LIT and I have spoken with them on this in relation to the services that come through the college here and to the college and they are going to change, because I believe if there is a better service, people will use it.”
Paul Crowe, Limerick City and Council Director of Travel and Transport, said the investment was “vital” and would “improve the travel times on all our bus corridors and make public transport, cycling and walking more attractive and desirable modes of transport in the city”.
Mr Kelly also said that he intends for much vaunted public bike-sharing scheme to be launched in July.
“I aim to see it live in July of this year,” he said of the scheme, which will feature over 20 docking stations around the city.
“It has been a very short turn around time. A lot of people didn’t believe it was possible, we got private funding and I expect that after the work that the NTA have reported to me, that it will be in place by the summer of this year.”