A new accessibility mapping tool has been developed by the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) and the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) as part of the Cross-Border Spatial Planning Development and Training Network (CroSPlaN), an EU INTERREG IVA-funded programme administered by the Special EU Programmes Body.  Operated in association with the Centre for Cross Border Studies as part of the Ireland-Northern Ireland Cross-Border Co-operation Observatory (INICCO), CroSPlaN is a three-year programme of research, training and workshops in Northern Ireland and the Southern border counties.

The data generated by the AIRO mapping tool will provide a unique insight into the cross-border distribution of facilities and services. A key aim of the new mapping tool is to make evidence of the distribution of services more accessible, and to support evidence-based decisions in terms of planning and development. For policy makers, local authorities, businesses and communities seeking to make urban and rural environments desirable places to live and work, access to such tools are critical to planning, funding, implementing and monitoring new schemes and initiatives.

The All-Island Accessibility Mapping Tool provides an analysis of access to settlements and key service infrastructure such as transport, education and health facilities across Ireland. Accessibility scores to a range of services have been developed for every residential address point on the island (approx 2.7m) based on average drive-time speeds (average speed on NAVTEC road network plus 10% urban area congestion charge). For the purposes of the mapping tool the accessibility scores have been averaged at the most detailed spatial statistical unit available – Small Areas for the Republic of Ireland (approx 18k) and Output Areas for Northern Ireland (approx 5k), see Figure 1 and 2.

Figure 1: Average access score in Small Areas







Figure 2: Access to International Airports












The online accessibility mapping tool, developed using ArcGIS Viewer for Flex from ESRI, allows users to select from a variety of maps and query the accessibility score at the small areas level. Accessibility scores have been developed for the following services to date:

  • Gateways, Gateways and Hubs
  • Settlements > 50,000, Settlements > 20,000, Settlements> 10,000, Settlements > 5,000 and Settlements > 1,500
  • Education: Primary and Secondary Schools
  • Health: Full 24hr Emergency Hospitals, Full 24hr and Partial Emergency Hospitals, GPs, Pharmacies and Dentists
  • Train Stations, International and All International and Regional Airports
  • Emergency Services: Fire Stations, Garda/PSNI Stations 

Note: Origin datasets have been generated from a variety of sources such as NISRA/NINIS, HSE, Dept of Education, DubLinked/NTA etc

Brief overview of results

In general, average travel times to services in Northern Ireland are lower than the Republic of Ireland. Travel times to the nearest education services such as Primary and Secondary schools are roughly comparable whereas there is a noticeable difference in travel times to the nearest health services. Local health services and facilities such as GPs, Dentists and Pharmacies are marginally more accessible in Northern Ireland. However, access to more strategic health services such as emergency hospitals are quite different with average access to a 24 hour Full Emergency Hospital at 16 minutes in Northern Ireland and 21 minutes in the Republic of Ireland. There are of course regional differences across the island with services being most accessible in cities and urban areas where average access is less than 10 minutes; Local Authorities such as Cork City, Belfast, Dublin City, Galway City, Waterford City, Dún-Laoighre Rathdown, Castlereagh, South Dublin and Coleraine fall within this category. On the other end of the scale, the average access is in excess of 35 minutes; with Local Authorities such as Monaghan, Omagh, Tipperary North, Leitrim, Clare and Roscommon amongst the worst.

Access the All-Island Accessibility Mapping Tool

To get access to this free and interactive mapping tool and explore the different results please click the following link: http://airomaps.nuim.ie/airoaccessmap

To aid an analysis of the accessibility results at local authority level we have also developed an interactive data visualisation tool, the results of this can be viewed on the AIRO site at the following link: Click here

Justin Gleeson