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Limerick transport plan broadly welcomed; but reaching decarbonisation targets “outside the remit of NTA”

— Cycling targets far more ambitious than last draft.

The publication of the finalised Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (LSMATS) yesterday has so-far been broadly welcomed by both politicians and sustainable transport campaigners.

Although there’s the first signs of annoyance from some politicians that the planned Northern Distributor Road didn’t make in into the plan, while even without the road, the National Transport Authority admitted that the plan is not in line with Ireland’s climate action commitments.

The National Transport Authority said yesterday: “The overall objective of the strategy is to provide a radically improved bus network, major investment in walking and cycling infrastructure, all supported by investment in rail and road where they contribute to the overall sustainable transport objectives.”

It said the policy “provides a roadmap for sustainable transport in the region over the next 20 years”.

The strategy and its supporting documents can be read in full at nationaltransport.ie/limerick-shannon.

20 year plan not compatible with with climate plan

In its consultation report for the plan, the NTA said: “In relation to emissions, a number of respondents raised the fact that the measures contained in LSMATS alone are not forecast to lead to a reduction in transport emissions of 50%, as required by legislation. Conversely, some others are of the view that it is possible to avoid any additional punitive measures. Emissions were also linked with a number of aspects of the LSMATS, such as the LNDR and cycling investment.”

Its response said: “The NTA undertook comprehensive modelling assessments of the LSMATS throughout 2021 and 2022 as it related to emissions. This work demonstrated clearly that significant measures outside the remit of the NTA and the LSMATS would be required to be implemented in order to reach the 50% target.”

“An alternative to this would be to incorporate extremely punitive traffic management measures into the LSMATS which would apply only in the LSMA and which would not likely be acceptable from an accessibility and equality point of view,” the authority continued.

It concluded: “The additional measures will include further demand management measures to be determined by national policy, and changes to fuel, in particular changes to the fuel technology used for long distance HGVs. This is all set out in Chapter 17. The NTA is committed to undertaking all measures within its remit that are required to contribute to the carbon emissions reduction targets and to cooperate with other agencies and stakeholders to deliver other measures.”

David Tobin, vice-chair of Cyclist.ie, the national umbrella group of cycling campaigns, and a member of the Limerick Cycling Campaign, said the national group was disappointed by the NTA’s comments.

He said: “Cyclist.ie is disappointed at comments in the NTA Consultation Report that they have shied away from the traffic management measures needed to meet their climate obligation to reach the 50% reduction in emissions.”

Tobin added: “We need bravery from the NTA to tackle the more difficult but necessary steps to meet the challenges of climate breakdown. We would hope the urgency that we face will motivate more far reaching measures to tackle this issue.”

He welcomed the strategy overall and the removal of the Northern Distributor Road from the policy document, see more if his comments below.

Political differences

Kieran O’Donnell, a Fine Gael TD for Limerick City and chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications, said he is “Pleased to have secured commitments from NTA in published final LSMATS plan to address serious traffic congestion at Mackey Roundabout on M7 and Athlunkard Bridge,Corbally.

He added: “Continued absence of Northern Distributor Road is very disappointing due to direction from Minister Eamon Ryan to NTA.”

The NTA said: “Funding provision for the development of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road (LNDR has not been included in the Government’s National Development Plan 2021-2030. In addition, the Minister for Transport has requested the NTA not to include for its development as part of this transport strategy. Accordingly. the LNDR does not form part of this LSMATS.”

Meanwhile, Green Party TD for the city, Brian Leddin, said: “I am delighted that we now have a strategy that will underpin the development of transport and particularly sustainable transport in the Limerick and Shannon region in the decades to come.“

Leddin added: “For the first time ever we are seeing transport planning integrated with land use planning. This strategy supports a major ambition for Limerick and Shannon and it provides a basis for large investments in sustainable transport infrastructure and in the active travel modes, which will create a better Limerick City.”

He added: “We have already seen the announcements for the new railway station in Moyross and for the reinstatement of the Limerick – Foynes line. There are further new stations in the strategy, like Ballysimon in the first phase and Raheen, Parkway, Corbally and Patrickswell in the second phase. The twin-tracking to Limerick Junction will vastly improve the services to Dublin, Cork and Waterford.”

Warm welcome from campaigners

Conor Buckley, chairperson of the Limerick Cycling Campaign, said: “The Limerick Cycling campaign is delighted to see the publication of Limerick’s transport strategy LSMATS. Since our inception, we have actively campaigned for a strategic plan to inform the delivery of a cohesive cycle network across the city.”

“Limerick is well-positioned to be a leading cycling city, Its compact radius of just 6km and relatively flat topology provides very favourable conditions for a high level of cycling within the metropolitan area,” he said.

Buckley said: “The first draft of the strategy disappointingly had no targets for cycling and little reference to school mobility or access to regeneration areas. Two drafts later we have a target of 15% – 20% for all transport journeys to be completed by bike by 2040 along with specifically identified measures within the strategy to enable active and sustainable transport for schools journeys along with improved access and connection for regeneration areas. “

“It’s important now, that we actively measure modal shift — bums on seats — on an annual basis as we incrementally improve our network to move towards that 20% modal share target for bike journeys. We need to prioritise the infrastructure projects and connections that will deliver those bums on seats, this will involve connecting suburbs thought the city with high quality connected cycling infrastructure,” he said.

Buckley added: “LSMATS provides a clearly lineated map of primary and secondary routes that will connect places of education, work and leisure to the residential areas where we live. The Active Travel Team with Limerick council now has a clear map identifying projects for development over the coming years. With the TUS and Mary I to city centre schemes already underway we should start to see this network emerging in the coming year.”

The Limerick Pedestrian Network said: “The new Transport Strategy for Limerick (LSMATS) is finalised. We’re really pleased by how many new Objectives have been added on Walking since the strategy was first drafted.”

“Obviously, implementation and targets are going to be crucial, but this is a significant document and we’re proud to have been part of the loooooonnnnggg process of developing it,” the group said.

David Tobin said: “The publication of the final LSMATS document is incredibly welcomed in Limerick by Cyclist.ie. The clear outlining of the whole urban and suburban cycling network and its required key primary routes such as the South Circular Rd to City Centre and TUS to City Centre routes is key.”

“This gives a concrete overview of how routes will come together to form the cycle network essential to provide safe and coherent pathways for our modal shift away from private car and towards cycling, walking and public transport,” he said.

Tobin said: “Combined with the requirements under the Climate Action Plan, the Limerick Development Plan and other polices and strategies it’s clear that there is an onus on Limerick Council to deliver the cycle network in a very short timeframe. With Part 8 consultation already completed it is essential that Limerick Council, it’s councillors and their Active Travel Team push ahead with fast delivery of these key arterial routes.”

“Huge credit has to be given to the contributions of Limerick Cycling Campaign whose push on schools and areas of deprivation ensured there was a much stronger social justice aspect to the final draft. Their contributions have ensured that the voice of the child has been elevated with a specific section on schools and another on Regeneration areas ensuring those most at risk of transport exclusion are prioritised,” he said.

Tobin added: “I welcome the removal of the Northern Distributor Road form the strategy. It would have been a clear breach of national policy for it to be added and it’s exclusion rightly focuses us on the forms of transport we need to combat climate breakdown, deliver a better city and drive sustainable investment into Limerick.”

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