Transport Minister commits to light rail study for Galway

Date: 09 Apr 2021

Transport Minister Éamon Ryan has given a commitment in the Dáil that a new study will be commissioned to examine the feasibility of introducing a light rail system in Galway City.

In fact, he said the proposed Cross-City Link bus route – linking the western and eastern suburbs through the city centre – was an “obvious” choice for a light rail route.

However, Minister Ryan said that it would be a “difficult decision” requiring the backing of city councillors and local TDs.

He said next year would be the “appropriate time” to revisit the Galway Transport Strategy as it will mark the sixth anniversary of its publication.

The matter was raised in the Dáil last week by Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly during a debate on sustainable transport for the city and county.

She said that alongside Park and Ride facilities for the east and west sides of the city, she wanted to see light rail introduced.

Light rail technology has seen significant technological advances over the past decade, and advocates believe any such system for Galway would be very different to Dublin’s Luas, with lighter, eco-friendly and lower-cost rail cars.

Deputy Connolly told the Dáil: “My preference is for light rail but that is just my preference, as it was among the 24,000 people who signed the petition to ask for a feasibility study. It is all tied in together. The city is destined to grow, as the Minister knows, by an additional 40% under the National Development Plan.”

The Transport Minister gave an assurance that a feasibility study would be carried out and this could happen next year.

“I agree about the merits of a feasibility study for light rail in Galway. We will commission and deliver that. It is best done within the review of the Galway transport strategy which is due next year.

“It would also be done then at a time when, all going well, we will know whether we have got the planning permission through for the cross-link [bus] route,” said the Transport Minister.

He said the planned Cross-City Link bus route – which runs from University Road, over Salmon Weir Bridge, Francis Street and Eglinton Street to Eyre Square, Forster Street, College Road to the Dublin Road – would be the “obvious” one to be upgraded to light rail.

The Cross-City Link bus proposal is expected to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála in the second quarter of this year and would take between 12-18 months to construct.

“That would be one obvious route which we could upgrade to the light rail options that a number of people in Galway are now presenting as having real potential,” Minister Ryan said.

“To deliver that requires first and foremost political commitment from the local authority representatives and the Dáil representatives in Galway because it will be a difficult decision.

“It will require the reallocation of space and preference being given to public transport. This would transform the city for the better, but it is never easy.

“It is never easy to change from the current model to a new one but that is the key thing.

“Getting local political buy-in, support and backing for the bus corridor options and for the active travel routes is what we need in Galway more than anything else.

“I think that next year is an appropriate time to look again at the Galway Transport Strategy and review it, given that 2022 will mark its sixth anniversary,” he said.

Deputy Connolly told the Galway City Tribune this week that any data which fed into the transport strategy is now outdated given the country’s climate change commitments and modal changes due to Covid-19.

“Light rail is part of a sustainable solution to Galway’s problems. The city is going to increase in population by 50%, and we should be planning for that,” she said.

In a subsequent written reply to Deputy Connolly, Minister Ryan said: “I agree with the Deputy that given the time that has elapsed since publication of the Galway Transport Strategy, there is a need to review it and take stock of developments since its publication.

“I understand that such a review will commence next year and will allow for consideration again of the issue of light rail but importantly that consideration will take place within the overall framework of the strategy itself,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Gluas committee – which is campaigning for a Very Light Rail (VLR) system for Galway – will hold a webinar on VLR on Tuesday, April 20 at 7pm.

A number of speakers who are experts in the field of VLR will take part. They are from companies involved in such technology and from cities approximately the same size as Galway with similar demographics. A Question and Answer session will complete the free hour-long event.



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