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Cork Chamber on Ireland's first Zero Carbon passenger bus journey. Championing green transport

Passengers Make Ireland’s First Journey on a Biogas Bus

Bus travellers in Cork were the first passengers to journey on a ‘green bus’ in Ireland on Monday 25th March.  With zero carbon emission footprint, the biomethane-powered bus is a viable alternative for Ireland’s public bus fleet. The biogas bus has been part of national trials looking at green bus performance, air quality impacts and CO2 emissions, among other criteria. Biomethane is a clean, renewable gas that is 98% methane. Also known as green gas, it can be used interchangeably with conventional fossil-fuel natural gas, meaning it can be added to the existing gas grid. A growing number of European capital cities now run their buses on gas, resulting in lower carbon emissions and better air quality in cities. Biomethane also contains virtually no particulate matter (PM) making it an ideal fuel for extensive use in urban areas.

The Transport Subgroup of Energy Cork has been advocating the benefits of adopting compressed natural gas to biomethane for public transport fleet technology for a number of years. The Ireland’s Greenest Bus Fleet proposal, developed by the Energy Cork Transport Sub-Group with the support of Cork Chamber, Bus Éireann, Gas Networks Ireland, Cork County Council, Cork City Council and University College Cork, envisages the transition of the Cork city bus fleet (at least 120 vehicles) on a phased basis from the current diesel vehicles to compressed natural gas (CNG)/ Biomethane fully renewable gas fuelled vehicles. With the initiation of green gas injections to the national grid the possibility of a fully renewable and carbon neutral bus fleet and technology is now a real possibility that holds unprecedented benefits from an energy resilience, circular economy, waste to energy, clean energy and environmental perspective.

Cork Chamber, Energy Cork and Gas Networks Ireland, with MaREI at UCC, were delighted to recently host Ireland’s First Zero Carbon Biogas Bus Journey from Cork City to Ringaskiddy on Monday March 25th. The bus journey, utilising a biogas fuelled bus used in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport’s trial of low emission bus technologies in Cork and Dublin brought together a range of stakeholders from across Cork and nationally. In Cork we are awaiting the publication of the Cork Metropolitan Transport Strategy which will map out the future strategy and investment in Cork’s public and sustainable transport infrastructure and services. Faced with EU deadlines to reduce harmful greenhouse gases and following Budget 2018, Ireland will no longer purchase diesel buses for public transport as of 1st July 2019. With this Energy Cork Transport subgroup are continuing to advocate the opportunity in transitioning to a low emission public transport fleet which also gives effect to national waste management policy. This journey successfully received broad media coverage owed to the increasing business and public interest in adopting clean technologies and transitioning to a low carbon society. Ireland’s First Zero Carbon Bus Journey was also mentioned in the Climate Action Committee’s proceedings on March 27th.

The Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport has been carrying out technology trials of hybrid diesel, fully electric, electric hybrid, compressed natural gas (CNG) and biomethane powered buses in Cork and Dublin in recent months to review performance. The green buses have been travelling key routes in the urban bus transport network, but have been weighted rather than carrying passengers. This technology is tried and tested with examples of biomethane bus fleets in Stockholm, Lille and Nottingham to name just a few cities. Cork Chamber and Energy Cork are keen to see this technology supported by the National Transport Authority and hope to see these buses rolled out in Cork in the not too distant future. We are awaiting the conclusion of these trials.

For more information on Public Affairs Activities at Cork Chamber click here.

What’s your top 10? Cork Bike Scheme to be extended with TEN new stations

Ten new bike stations will be added to Cork’s public bicycle network by the end of 2019. This was confirmed by the National Transport Authority last week in response to our call for further investment.

The expansion comes after more than one million journeys were clocked on Cork’s shared bikes in 2018, four years after the scheme’s launch in 2014. In Cork alone, more than 270,000 journeys were made on 330 rented bikes in 2018: more than twice the figure for Galway and Limerick combined.

Cork in Numbers

Given the size of Cork City, it is no surprise that the public bike scheme has been a huge success. Benefiting from a flat and compact city centre, the NTA estimates that the average Cork trip was 1.5 kilometres. You can practically cycle anywhere within the city centre in less than ten minutes.

Yet, Census 2016 revealed that only 3% of commuters in metropolitan Cork cycle to work. This despite that half of all commuter trips in Cork are less than five kilometres. So in Cork we have great scope for promoting cycling as a commuter option. In fact, the last Census showed that cycling already has become much more popular among Irish commuters. Of all transport modes, cycling has seen the greatest share increase, having grown by 43% since 2011.

What our Members Say

In 2017, we asked our members about their usage of the Cork public bike scheme and appetite for growth. The survey found that 62% of businesses use their private car when accessing or travelling through the city, followed by 15% cycling.

Of those using the scheme, 27% said they use public bikes to travel between meetings. At Cork Chamber, we believe this number can be grown substantially. Within our own team, we offer everyone Coke Zero Bikes subscriptions and bicycle helmets are always available at reception. This small but significant step has meant that many of our meetings in places such as Cork City Council and UCC are now accessed by bike rather than by car.

Across our membership in both Cork city and county there is equally strong appetite for using the bike rather than a car. 85% of our members state that they would use Cork’s public bike scheme if it was expanded.  For example, the opportunity for rolling out a Little Island public bike scheme to reduce traffic volumes has been raised by our members. This highlights how cycling should not be reserved for the city centre only.

When asked to identify areas for new stations the most popular locations were:

  1. Blackrock and Douglas
  2. CIT
  3. Blackpool

Carbon Neutrality

It is now clear that Ireland will not reach its 2020 climate targets and fines will soon come our way as a consequence thereof. As a city, region and country, we can do much better when it comes to promoting sustainable transport and facilitating a shift to a cleaner environment.

Ensuring bikeable cities presents one of the greatest opportunities towards carbon neutral environments. In Scandinavian cities, 98% of people using public transport begin their journey on foot or by bicycle. The opportunity exists to replicate this in Cork, connecting residential zones to commuter hubs and commercial activity while enabling a more active, healthier and happier workforce.

Ten new stations are a welcome first step. Now we need to focus on the next ten.

For more information on Public Affairs Activity at Cork Chamber click here.

M28 Ringaskiddy Cork Transport

M28: A Critical Enabler for Ireland’s fastest Growing City Region

Cork Chamber highlights the importance of maximising our regional strategic employment areas, one of which is Ringaskiddy; our strategic international connectivity assets, Port of Cork; and our overall regional socio-economic development potential. It is crucial as a region that we facilitate the development that will meet the needs of future population target projections, facilitate jobs growth and increase national resilience in an increasingly uncertain geo-political environment.

The support of Cork Chamber for the M28 project is underpinned by the social and economic benefits that this development will bring to the region. In brief, we see this development as:

  • facilitating future economic development, investment, employment growth and long-term competitiveness
  • safeguarding current and future employment, research and educational assets located in Ringaskiddy and ensuring the viability of their location, and growing opportunities within the blue economy
  • facilitating the growth of port capacity (as an island nation we are heavily dependent on sea based trade with up to 90% of trade done by sea) which is particularly important given the future need for direct sea routes to Europe as a result of Brexit
  • countering daily traffic congestion; facilitating the flow of people (commuter and residents), goods and services
  • enabling safer access for residential and business communities accessing the N40 South Link Road and national routes
  • enabling improvements in public transport options for commuters and residents
  • catalysing wider regional development, including development of the tourism sector and facilitating development of the Cork Docklands

1. Developments at Ringaskiddy

Firstly, we highlight a number of subsequent developments which have come to the fore and which we believe are highly relevant in this decision making process. The pharma/life sciences sector is a significant contributor to the local and national economy in terms of jobs and manufacturing exports, and is one of our fastest-growing sectors. In Ringaskiddy alone, one fifth of the nationally estimated 25,000 people working in the pharma/life sciences industry are based in companies located there.

Ringaskiddy is a strategic employment area. In recent months planning permissions have been secured for a number of sites in Ringaskiddy, bringing positive jobs announcements for the region. We believe these announcements reflect the potential of Ringaskiddy and its importance as a local and national economic growth driver.

Jannsen Sciences Ireland UC announced an investment of over €300m at their Ringaskiddy site, to include a site expansion and creation of 200 jobs, with 450 construction jobs during the 2 year construction period.

BioMarin officially opened the new expansion at BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. in Shanbally in July 2017, adding up to 50 new positions.

GE Healthcare are investing €150 million in the development of a biopharmaceutical manufacturing campus, and establishing an advanced manufacturing training centre as part of this. This development will create up to 500 jobs, and will provide training for up to 1,500 professionals per year.

There is planning for a significant new housing development within close proximity of the route corridor in Carrigaline.

Commitment to other road projects such as the M20 Cork – Limerick Motorway, the Dunkettle Interchange upgrade linking in with the M8, and a future Northern Ring Road. Each of these projects must be considered in tandem with the M28 and will ensure an integrated transport network across Cork, and linking up to the industrial and shipping hub at Ringaskiddy.

Cork Chamber supports the development of the M28 which will facilitate future investment and increase the capacity and safety of the road network to meet growing usage numbers.

2. Local & International Connectivity

Secondly, the National Planning Framework is currently under development, and seeks to significantly improve local and international connectivity to underpin competitiveness and quality of life of people, businesses, communities and regions. The framework aims to grow our regions sustainably, and forecasts for population growth for the Cork region of at least 50% by 2040. Cork Chamber highlights the strategic importance of Ringaskiddy in attracting investment and future jobs creation, and highlights the importance of addressing the current infrastructure deficits.

Without investment in the M28, the route will continue to experience growing traffic volumes along the existing road, worsening current commuter and traffic bottlenecks with negative impacts on both the economy and on local communities. Cork Chamber highlights the importance of working to mitigate the effects of geo-political shocks such as Brexit on our national economy. Cork Chamber contends that an enabled Port infrastructure will be critical in diversifying and increasing the resilience of our import and export trade.

3. Road Safety

Finally, Cork Chamber highlights the benefits of motorway designation in increasing road safety for all users, decreasing the frequency of collisions along the route. Motorways are generally safer with designation bringing safety benefits by prohibiting pedestrians, cyclists, direct accesses and slow moving agricultural vehicles. There have been a number of collisions and fatalities along this route over recent months, and Cork Chamber supports the development of infrastructure that will increase safety for all road users, and which will enable the associated benefits for the broad business, commuter and residential communities living
and accessing this significantly improved transport corridor, in areas such as Ringaskiddy, Douglas/Rochestown, Carrigaline and the City.

In conclusion, Cork Chamber is supportive of the development of the M28 along this route corridor and within the proposed delivery time frame.

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