THE draft Mid-West Area Strategic Plan for the region puts forward a population target of 15,000 for Shannon by 2030.
Shannon had a population of 9,305 in 2011, while it sets out a target of growth of 1,250 in the years to 2015. There is a target of 1,900 in the years 2016-2020 and of another 2,500 in the years 2021-30.
It noted there is low usage of public transport among workers in the town. “Shannon Free Zone employs around 6,500 (of which only 4% use buses) while the residential area of Shannon Town has a population of around 8,000. Therefore, the local population, transient commuter and employment base make the locality a prime market for public transport, yet the current usage is poor. In the absence of a feasible rail link, public transport bus connections to the airport are provided by coach services.
“However, the additional journey time for public transport commuter routes to access and egress from Shannon may make choice of public transport over private vehicle a service offering difficult to sell, given the challenges the direct upgraded road access provided. At present, a single bus trip is about one third the cost of a day’s car hire at a little under €6.”
The draft paints an optimistic view of the coming years in the town. “Shannon Free Zone currently provides employment for roughly 6,500 people with almost 10,000 employed in the wider Shannon area such as Shannon Free Zone, Smithstown, the airport and Shannon Town. For the Shannon Free Zone, manufacturing, international trade services, aviation, tourism and logistics services provide much of the employment opportunities. New development opportunities in freight handling, USA customs clearance, high-end manufacturing and aviation training and maintenance offer potential gains for rapid growth in the Shannon and environs areas and improved competitiveness for the gateway region.
“It is anticipated this vibrant settlement will, over the short to medium term, provide an enhanced role for Shannon and that additional population and residential settlement will be attracted to the area.
“The population level proposed for the town in the strategy is greater than previous targets. This will create a more vibrant settlement that contributes in a more sustainable way to the performance of the gateway. Shannon has the potential to grow significantly over the period of the strategy, providing an international entry to the Atlantic Corridor with excellent air, road and rail linkages.”
With regard to the airport, it went through the collapse in traffic of recent years but sounded a rather hopeful note, stating that Shannon has seven times the amount of services to the US that Belfast has.
It also lays out some priorities for the airport. “In the absence of an agreed national aviation policy for Ireland, it is necessary for this strategy to inform national policy and underscore the key roles Shannon Airport can play in the national context are the following; continue to serve as an international access point for the region and West of Ireland; be a key driver in influencing business interests wishing to locate in Ireland by offering a broad choice of international routes and connections; offer a range of routes for the tourism market; develop further as an internationally recognised aviation cargo facility; reduce its cost base and working the assets under its control, including the maximising of the 2,000 acre landbank under its control and return to a facility that caters for over 2.5 million passengers per year in the next five years.”