Following extensive consultation between its board of directors, Chamber membership, involvement in the newly formed Transport and Mobility Forum, and a meeting with the National Transport Authority (NTA), Shannon Chamber has submitted constructive suggestions to the NTA on how the current draft of the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Network (LSMATS) 2040 could be further refined to deliver tangible benefits to Shannon.
If the points raised in its submission to the LSMATS draft are implemented, Shannon Chamber believes that they would greatly assist the NTA in attaining its goals of developing Limerick and Shannon as a unified metropolitan area and reduce transport emissions, the overall goals of the Strategy.
Shannon Chamber’s submission has been prepared against a background, as outlined by the NTA, where 79% of Shannon’s residents drive or are driven to work, 92% of Shannon’s workers drive or are driven to work, 1 in 4 trips to work take 10 minutes or less, 54% of college students drive or are driven, 32% of students aged 13-18 are driven to school and, the structure of the town severs the resident population from employment areas.
“The cornerstone of our submission is that the three elements of Shannon – the Town Centre, Shannon Free Zone, and Shannon Airport – must be inter-connected in any new Transport Strategy, to make all parts of Shannon easily accessible for residents, workers and visitors,” stated Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes, outlining details of the Chamber’s submission made last week, ahead of the 30 October deadline.
“The future development of Shannon must combine the living, working and leisure aspects of the town as a unit, not as separate attributes. This point has also been raised in our submission to Clare County Council to inform the drafting of the Shannon Town Masterplan.
“Overall, we were very heartened to see references in the draft LSMATS to improving Shannon’s transport system and making connectivity between Shannon and Limerick more seamless.
“Our board and members were also delighted to have had the opportunity to meet virtually with the deputy chief executive and director of transport planning with the NTA and also with the LSMATS project manager. Connecting directly with the executives drafting the strategy was mutually beneficial as it enabled both parties, the NTA and the Chamber, to fully comprehend the collective objectives. This should result in refinements being made to the draft strategy that match the needs of all stakeholders,” added Ms Downes.
Having examined the LSMATS draft in detail, Shannon Chamber’s submission included direct section by section commentary on the draft Strategy and a summary of key points on walking, cycling, bus and rail connections, roads and streets, traffic management, freight delivering and servicing and recommendations which the Chamber would like to see incorporated into the Strategy. It also referenced the viability of developing the Connected Autonomous Vehicle (CAV)/Mobility as a Service (MaaS) sector in Shannon and the benefits of considering a 4th River Shannon crossing for delivery in the longer term.
Suggesting that a change in policy and practice is required to encourage people to transfer to public transport and that interventions to change habits will take time but will be considered if the benefits are obvious and widely promoted, Ms Downes added: “The view of Shannon Chamber and its membership is that, for public transport to work in Ireland, with a population so spread out, it has to operate like the courier, ‘Hub and Spoke’ model, with intercity high-speed transit time journeys connecting the cities, supported by local and frequent transport connections within each city and the surrounding areas, including park and ride locations on the periphery.
“For this to be successful, the local transport network would need to be frequent, smaller, and environmentally friendly. The ideal solution for this type of local network could rest in some type of electrified autonomous trams or buses. This has been successfully rolled out in the Netherlands,” added Ms Downes
Commenting on the impact COVID-19 might have on some aspects of the draft Strategy, Shannon Chamber also suggested that, given the level of change necessitated by COVID-19 and the growth in remote working, which is reducing worker commuting to major employment centres, it would be beneficial to factor this and any future such potential impacts on transport patterns into the drafting of the LSMATS, as this might further impact the way we live our lives.
Summary of Key Points of Shannon Chamber LSMATS Submission
- The abundant green areas in Shannon, which include a long-established network of “black paths” developed as the town was built, offer real potential for attractive and green walkways and cycleways.
- Extend the walkway/cycle way from Limerick to Bunratty to Shannon using existing riverside infrastructure – using existing green and landscaped areas, not roads.
- Refocus walkways in Shannon on the existing black path network that already exists and is extensively linked to the town.
- Upgrade the existing Shannon walkways signage to include direction indicators – develop a wayfinding system for Shannon.
- Designate a coherent network of cycle routes and cycle hubs across Shannon which will provide access to Shannon Airport, Shannon Free Zone and Shannon Town.
- Expand the Bicycle Sharing Scheme to Shannon.
- Development of cycling and walkway from Shannon to Bunratty /Sixmilebridge and following the riverbank to Limerick
- Consider pilot testing walk and cycle-to-school initiatives in Shannon using quiet ways based on existing pathways.
- Create long-stay parking and cycle parking hubs in Shannon, Shannon Free Zone and Shannon Airport.
- Introduce a dockless bike system for Shannon.
- Extend the cycle lane in Shannon to take in the riverside in Shannon and on to the airport; achievable through piggybacking on the upcoming flood relief works.
- Implement more direct inter-regional bus services between Shannon Airport and the second- tier cities of Galway and Cork.
- Assess how private operators can be licenced to operate on routes such as from Sixmilebridge to Shannon and from Shannon Airport to main city locations.
- Connect Shannon to Limerick City Centre and other key locations such as UL and LIT via a fast frequent and reliable bus service.
- Develop Park and Ride in both directions – Shannon to Limerick and vice versa and to facilitate access to e.g. inter-city buses also.
- Further examine the concept of light rail linking Limerick, Shannon, Sixmilebridge and Galway given the requirement to reduce our carbon footprint.
- Link Sixmilebridge and Shannon via shuttle bus.
Roads & Streets
- Upgrade the N19 approach road to Shannon Airport from the current single carriageway road layout.
- Address capacity constraints on the N19 at junctions connecting to the Business Park and Town.
- Develop a new signalised junction on the R471 at Smithstown and a new link road to connect the junction with the existing road at Smithstown.
- Upgrade the junction of L3126 and Low Road (and its approaches) at Bunratty.
- Review Shannon Town Centre parking including rationale for blocking a previous access point at the Lidl roundabout and its negative impact on traffic behaviour.
- Advance the M20 project linking Limerick and Cork and the Limerick Northern Distributor Road.
- Consideration should also be given to a future upgrade of the Limerick to Kerry route to facilitate easier access to Limerick, Shannon Airport, Galway, and the west of Ireland.
- Develop an integrated coach management scheme to support traffic management measures at key locations.
Freight, Delivery and Servicing
- Assess the feasibility of developing a consolidation centre outside Limerick city as a means of reducing the number of HGVs entering the city.
- Support the development of the Connected Autonomous Vehicle (CAV)/Mobility as a Service (MaaS) sector in the Shannon area including Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (UAV) R&D.
- Consider the likelihood of future unexpected occurrences which could further alter the pattern of living and working.
- Consider the benefits of a 4th River Shannon crossing for long-term delivery. Potential to deliver a significant city of scale and enhance the served market for Shannon Airport, enhance Shannon Foynes Port, and create the potential for an orbital route around the airport and the greater Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area.