Chamber states draft Limerick Transport Strategy in need of significant change

Limerick Chamber Launches Election Manifesto regarding Mid West Business Priorities - from left to right: Dee Ryan - CEO Limerick Chamber, Catriona Cahill - Chief Economist Limerick Chamber.

LIMERICK Chamber has today expressed its concern that the draft Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (LSMATS) in its current form does not support the goals set out in Project Ireland 2040 or the National Climate Action Plan.

Furthermore, the Chamber believes that the draft strategy published by the National Transport Authority does not reflect anticipated long-term changes to work and transport patterns arising from widespread adoption of remote working practices by employers.

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The Chamber last week had a briefing with NTA Chief Executive Anne Graham and urged that the strategy process be paused. This is, the Chamber believes, necessary to take into account the priorities of the current government as distinct from the previous regime, as well as implications from the COVID-19 pandemic. I

Limerick Chamber Chief Economist Dr Catriona Cahill said, “Having extensively reviewed the draft LSMATS and engaged in a number of briefing sessions on the Strategy, including with the NTA last week, Limerick Chamber is calling on the NTA to pause the current consultation process.

The world has changed completely since the NTA was originally instructed to complete this strategy in early 2019.  The Chamber would like to see time allowed for the new Transport Minister, Eamon Ryan, to refine the new government’s objectives in relation to carbon emission reductions and growth in sustainable transport so that these may be appropriately reflected in the strategy.

“Furthermore the business community feels that many of the remote working practices which have been adopted by organisations through the pandemic will remain with us into the future and, as such, the transport strategy must reflect these critical shifts in commuter behaviour.”

Dr Cahill continued, “In our view the current draft LSMATS requires substantial changes to make it fit for purpose. While we welcome the emphasis in the document on improved bus transport, we have a number of concerns.

“Specifically, we would query the standard of the data used in the modelling process, the limited reference to rail and the decision not to include micro-mobility such as electric scooters and bicycles, which are an emerging trend in urban transport that should be facilitated as an aspect of the strategy. Finally, we would like to see a cohesive blueprint on the role of stakeholders in encouraging behavioural change.

“We are concerned that this consultation period will be the only opportunity that Limerick citizens have to participate in decisions on a transport system. As it stands, there is no clear route for Limerick people to feed into the development of the 5 year implementation plan that will follow the strategy. So ,the significance of getting the draft Transport Strategy right can’t be understated.

“As it currently reads, the draft strategy assumes that future population growth will continue to be largely concentrated in suburban areas outside of the city centre and is written to support population growth in those locations.

“This emphasis, we believe, undermines other efforts to encourage and support compact urban growth, which is a crucial ingredient in breathing new life into our city centre. The Chamber is committed to achieving a thriving urban heartbeat in Limerick and building a future city that people want to visit and live in for generations to come. A comprehensive, sustainable urban transport system is a vital component for future Limerick.”

In conclusion Dr Cahill said “The current draft LSMATS fails to reflect the seismic impact that COVID-19 pandemic is having on how workplaces and businesses operate.  For this reason, we believe that the process should be paused and space given to anticipate how these changes will be reflected in our post-COVID transport needs.”

Limerick Chamber is engaging in an extensive consultation process with members and stakeholders and is facilitating a Transport and Mobility Forum.  The Forum, which comprises representatives from across the Limerick-Shannon metropolitan region, is seeking to identify common concerns and shared ambition so that we  strive for the strongest possible strategy to support Limerick’s future growth.