Irish Rail has developed a ‘National Car Parking Strategy’ which includes a plan for hundreds of new car parking spaces in urban areas, including a large number in the centre of towns or via already congested roads.
The strategy report, which was finalised in 2020, was released to IrishCycle.com after a Freedom for Information request to the semi-State company. The strategy has been referred to as the train company has started to expand car parks.
The approach of expanding car parking is in striking contrast to other cities and countries which are adding bicycle parking to drive rail use. The best example is the Netherlands which has invested in both improved cycle networks and large-scale bicycle parking at stations.
The footprint of just one car parking space can fit 10 bicycle spaces using standard Sheffield stand bicycle parking racks and around 20 bicycles using two-tier racks designed for high-capacity parking at locations such as railway stations.
The report includes a list of “project principles” which were “agreed with the NTA” after the National Transport Authority was consulted about the strategy, but these principles are listed in the document more like a high-profile footnote which did not change the main body of the plan.
Around the country, the report lists large-scale increases at stations located in the middle of towns, including an extra 290 spaces in Carlow, 180 in Sligo, and 100 in Mullingar.
While in Dublin commuter towns and suburbs, the plan includes 225 extra spaces at Leixlip Louisa Bridge, 150 in Portmarnock, 100 in Skerries, 150 in Coolmine, and 72 in Bray.
Feljin Jose, chairperson of the Dublin Commuter Coalition, a sustainable transport campaign group, said: “Increasing parking spaces in towns and suburban areas is a retrograde step. Park and ride should be provided at dedicated park and ride stations adjacent to motorways like M3 Parkway and Navan Road Parkway — not squeezed into the middle of existing communities like Bray, Portmarnock, Coolmine, Newbridge etc.”
“It’s hard to imagine this plan having any effect other than encouraging people living within the towns to drive very short distances to their train stations,” he said.
Jose added: “Improved access to stations from within the towns themselves should be provided by improving town bus services and the walking and cycling network not by encouraging people to drive short distances.”
Barry Kenny, a spokesperson for Irish Rail, said: “The Iarnród Éireann Car Park Strategy was developed in 2020, in consultation with the NTA, and incorporates all feedback received.”
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Kenny said: “The primary feedback from the NTA was that it ‘welcomes the development of the Strategy and see it as a key element in addressing the requirement for Park & Ride facilities assisting in the accessibility of Public Transport and providing an alternative (to) car only travel’ and that in general, the ‘NTA agrees with the sites that have been identified where additional car parking facilities are required.’
He said that “car parking does widen the catchment area for rail services, and the sites chosen are those where we have faced capacity issues, indicating demand for more capacity on all modes to access rail services.”
Kenny said: “As an example, at one of the highest priority locations for increased capacity, we will shortly be commencing works at Portmarnock Station car park which in the first instance will install a bus turning circle in the car park to facilitate BusConnects, and double the number of cycle parking spaces (as well as making them covered rather than uncovered currently) in advance of car park capacity expansion works there.”
On page two of the strategy, there is a list of conditions added to the document after consultation with the National Transport Authority. These “project principles” are listed being “agreed with the NTA”:
- “improvement of access on foot, by bike and on bus should be carried out as top priorities, with the balance of space, if any, within the area contiguous to a station then laid out for car parking;”
- “the ability of rail itself to develop new passing points in the network to improve the capacity of track infrastructure to provide services should not be compromised by developing parking;”
- “where stations are located within conurbations where the reduction of traffic congestion is an objective, the provision of car parking should not generate additional congestion on the local road network that would impede the efficiency of other modes of sustainable transport, particularly in town centres”;
- “consideration of the pricing structure at stations close to existing fare zone boundaries. For example, additional parking at Skerries or Kilcoole could offer an incentive to existing Public Transport users to drive a short distance to avail of a cheaper “short hop” fare and thereby generate an additional car trip and skewed representation of demand for parking; and
- “the NTA is currently engaged in improving local bus services and the design and layout of car parking should include appropriate measures to improve access by bus to and at rail stations and should not preclude the future access of such services.”