IRISH Transport Minister Séamus Brennan has approved the development of a three-line suburban rail network in Cork, at an estimated cost of €90m. Visiting the city on May 21 to open a new park and ride site, he said the network should be operational by 2007.

The biggest element is the creation of a 20 km line from Cork to Midleton, using a 10 km section of the former route from Cobh Junction to Youghal which closed in the early 1970s. This is budgeted at €56m, with four trains/h in each direction offering a 25min journey time. New stations with park and ride facilities are envisaged at Dunkettle, Carrigtwohill and Midleton.

Another €10m will go on introducing suburban services between Cork and Mallow on the main line to Dublin, serving new stations at Blarney, where another park and ride facility is planned, and at Kilbarry. Brennan said that a second phase of development estimated at €25m would add further stations and more park and ride facilities on the Mallow route as demand grows. Under the Cork Area Strategic Plan, the population in the area is expected to grow by up to 474% over the next 15 years.

Iarnród éireann is expected to spend €24m on new DMUs to work the Midleton and Mallow services plus the existing Cork - Cobh route. Patronage on the network is estimated at 3·8 million in the first year, doubling to 32000 a day by 2020. IE will get €5·5m in subsidy to support the operation over the first six years, but the network is expected to be self-financing after 2013.