The National Transport Authority have published the new Transport Strategy for the GDA region, which includes an updated GDA Cycle Network
The Strategy sets out how transport will be developed across the region, covering Dublin, Meath, Wicklow and Kildare, and includes key infrastructure projects such as the Navan rail line, BusConnects, Metrolink, and cycle networks.
The Draft of this Strategy was published for public consultation in 2021 and 1020 submissions were made as part of that process, including a detailed submission from Navan Cycling Initiative, which you can see here.
The NTA is required under statute to review the GDA Transport Strategy every six years and the new document is a revision of the plan that was adopted by Government in 2016. This Transport Strategy is also aligned with national policies on sustainability as set out in climate action and low carbon legislation, and in climate action plans. A notable change from the previous Strategy is that it is is now a statutory requirement to reduce transportation emissions by 51% by 2030.
A new Cycle Network Plan
As part of the new Strategy, an updated and enhanced GDA Cycle Network Plan was published for all regions. It states the new plan will “provide a substantial update and expansion of the previous GDA Cycle Network Plan”, which dates back to 2013. The previous document was broken down into specific plans for each town in the local authorities of Dublin (4), Wicklow, Kildare and Meath (see more on our Planned Cycling Infrastructure Page). The Network comprises of substantial primary and secondary urban networks, as well as comprehensive greenways, inter-urban and feeder networks.
A key vision statement of the Network states that it ‘seeks to be an inclusive cycling environment that is safe for all cycling abilities and ages with strong functional and recreational connectivity between homes and key destinations.’
Below you can see a side-by-side comparison the new 2021 GDA Cycle Network Map and the 2013 version. The GDA Cycle Network Plan Report, published by the NTA in 2021, claims the new network “notably expands into widespread areas of the GDA, including Strategic Development Zones (e.g. Cherrywood, Sandyford, Naas Road), district centres, towns and urban fringe areas”. There are also network improvements put forward for “utility movements”, such as access to work, education, community services and transport interchange. There are improvements to specific towns and areas as well, which we will go into detail for Navan below.
The networks, seen above, largely remain the same in terms of the overall structure of inter-urban routes, with a few additions, but there is a notable increase in greenways which have emerged over recent years. The likes of the Dodder Greenway, the Canal Loop Greenway, the Blessington Greenway and the Baltinglass Greenway are included in the new map, to name a few. Equally, the expansion of greenway and inter-urban routes provides links for more recreation leisure-focused cycling, with access to sports and recreational facilities, cycling loops, rural areas and tourist destinations.
In recent times we have seen good progress being made in Dublin through the construction of many cycling routes and projects. There is a notable increase in primary and secondary routes in the city. Yet outside of the capital, the Cycle Network Plan remains, for the most part, largely incomplete. Although the plans for all counties were first released in 2013, in counties like Meath progress has been very slow. Navan is the largest town in Meath and the fifth largest in Ireland, yet the Navan Cycle Network remains less than 20% complete, almost 10 years after the plans were first published.
As part of the network, the NTA has said tens of millions of euros has been invested in walking and cycling across the Greater Dublin Area since 2016. However, it should be pointed out that the majority of this investment has been in Dublin. It is important to highlight the imbalance that exists between investing in Dublin and the other three counties, rather than implying that millions of euros has been invested in walking and cycling in Co Meath. For example, the NTA’s 2019 Annual Report shows that a total of 0km of cycling infrastructure (either cycle lanes, tracks or shared paths) were built in Co Meath or Co Kildare during that time period.
The Navan Cycle Network
Focussing in on Navan and the surrounding areas, we will look at some improvements to the region. Below you can see the new Navan Cycle Network Map, and well as the previous 2013 version, and a new version of the overall GDA Cycle Network Map, showing all regions (note: this map was published along with the final report in 2023, but does not show all areas, such as Kells, Kildare Town, Greystones or Wicklow Town).
Looking at the new Navan map up close, the main network is largely the same, with the addition of the following:
- An outer ring in the south from the Athboy Road to the Trim Road, connecting to the previous planned section in Limeklin Wood, and onto Johnstown (note this part follows the route of a planned future ring road)
- The Boyne Road (and part of the Athlumney Road) has been upgraded from a feeder route to a secondary route, to link up with the new Bothar Hogget Road
- Clonmaggaden Road has been upgraded from a feeder route to a secondary route
- The inclusion of both the Boyne Greenway (extending all the way to Trim, and further links to the Royal Canal Greenway) and the Boyne Valley to the Lakelands County Greenway
In the above map, there are a number of feeder routes, highlighted in pink. These feeder routes play an important role in a town like Navan in particular, as there are a lot of small roads, lanes or ‘quietway’ routes suitable for cycling. It is unclear why the route names for each individual map (e.g. Na1, Na2 etc. in Navan) were removed, as we found these helpful to easily identify routes, particularly when it comes to proposed road projects undertaken by the local council.
There are also new maps for Kells, Trim, Dunshaughlin, Ratoath, Ashbourne and Enfield, which you can see below. In terms of interconnectivity throughout County Meath, a new inter-urban route has been added along the N2, now extending from Ashbourne to Slane. It must be noted these inter-urban routes may also align with the proposed new National Cycle Network, being produced by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), which aims to link towns, cities and destinations across Ireland with a new cycle network.
As ever, the key issue with the new Cycle Network Plan is quite often not the actual plans themselves, but the implementation of them. It is up to each local authority to do just that, with plans often being delayed or simply not prioritised (with road schemes often taking precedence), and local politics and objections impeding progress.
Navan Rail Line
As expected, the Navan rail line officially proposed in the strategy, which is great news. The timeline now states ‘Medium Term 2031-2036’.
The demand for the rail line has never been more clear. Almost half of 4,000 submissions who gave a place of residence were from County Meath, reflecting the scale of the campaign to deliver a rail service to Navan. The county of Meath has the largest population growth in Ireland, outside of Fingal, and Navan is the fifth biggest town in Ireland, and the largest town in Ireland without a functioning passenger rail line.
The timelines of the strategy phasing still remains somewhat open to interpretation, and disappointing, given the huge demand and submissions there were for it. The Navan rail line is the ‘Medium Term 2031-2036’, suggesting it could be delivered by 2031, or 2036 at the latest, with some reports suggesting that the planning and route selection can be given the green light immediately. We hope to see clarity from the NTA on this in the coming months, and if there is the capacity there to deliver it alongside other major infrastructure projects like MetroLink and Luas schemes.
In total over 4,000 submissions were received, predominantly from the general public, with 92 submissions received from various stakeholders and groups. Almost half of respondents who gave a place of residence, were from County Meath, reflecting the scale of the campaign to deliver a rail service to Navan
Given its close proximity to Dublin and the demand to work there, the need for the line is obvious. More people leave Meath to work than work in the county itself, and Meath workers commute further and longer distances than any other county. Yet for the large majority of all these journeys, driving is the main mode of transport, leading to hours of commuter time and chaotic traffic congestion. This has to change in order to meet climate targets and create a shift to sustainable transport.
See more on the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan, and the Navan Cycle Network, on our dedicated Planned Cycling Infrastructure page (to be updated soon).
To read the full plans and the supporting documents for the GDA Transport Strategy, visit the NTA’s website here.