Traffic Management and Congestion in Galway Region: Discussion

Before we start, I want to wish you all a very happy St. Valentine's Day. The clerk wrote that down; it was not me.

The purpose of today's meeting is to discuss traffic management and congestion in the Galway region. In that regard, I welcome to the meeting Ms Anne Graham, chief executive officer, National Transport Authority, NTA; Mr. Hugh Creegan, deputy chief executive officer, National Transport Authority; Mr. Brendan McGrath, chief executive, Galway City Council; Mr. Uinsinn Finn, senior engineer, Galway City Council; Mr. Kevin Kelly, chief executive, Galway County Council; Mr. Tony Neary, vice president and general manager, Medtronic, Galway; Mr. Brian Coll, senior lecturer, Institute of Technology Sligo; Mr. Jim Cullen, director of services, infrastructure and operations, Galway County Council; and Mr. Michael Timmins, director of service, planning and environment, Galway County Council.

I remind members, witnesses and those in the Public Gallery to turn off their mobile phones as they may interfere with our recording equipment.

Tá fáilte roimh go léir anseo. Before we commence, in accordance with procedure, I am required to read a note on privilege. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the joint committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I invite Ms Anne Graham, chief executive officer, NTA, to make an opening statement. She will be followed by Mr. Brendan McGrath, chief executive, Galway City Council, Mr. Kevin Kelly, chief executive, Galway County Council, Mr. Brian Coll, Institute of Technology Sligo and Mr. Tony Neary, vice president and general manager, Medtronic, Galway. Following those contributions I will call the members.

Ms Anne Graham

I thank the Chairman and members of the committee for the invitation to attend. I understand the committee wishes to focus on traffic management and congestion in Galway. To assist me in dealing with their subsequent questions, I am joined by Hugh Creegan, deputy CEO with the authority.

Before dealing with the specific areas of focus, I would like to set the context by providing a brief overview of the remit of the authority in this provision and regulation of public transport services.

The remit of the NTA is to regulate and develop the provision of integrated public transport services - bus, rail, light rail and taxi - by public and private operators in the State, to secure the development and implementation of an integrated accessible transport system within the greater Dublin area, and to contribute to the effective integration of transport and land use planning across the State. In addition to its statutory responsibilities, the authority has various arrangements with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to discharge functions on its behalf.

The authority is limited in terms of producing a statutory transport strategy to the greater Dublin area. Any transport strategy produced by the NTA in any other area is on a non-statutory basis.

On the current transport trends in Galway city, the following shows the number of journeys to work and education recorded by the 2016 census for census day, and compares that data to the 2011 census data on which the Galway transport strategy was based.

In terms of the different modes, between 2011 and 2016, the walking mode increased from 11,000 to 12,000 journeys. The cycling mode grew from 2,331 to 2,987. People used cycling as their means of access to work and education. The bus mode grew by almost 25%. Between 4,000 to just over 5,000 people used buses to access work and education. Rail went from 167 down to 120 in 2016. The car mode went from 27,461 to 27,914, representing a small increase between 2011 and 2016.

As can be seen from this data, there has been an increase in the number of people walking, cycling and using buses in the five years between the censuses. That is a very positive trend in the right direction and reflects how walkable the city is in terms of its size and the investment by the NTA, Bus Éireann and City Direct in improving the bus services in the city. However, significant challenges remain to movement within the city, which prompted the NTA to develop a transport strategy with Galway City and County Councils.

Regarding the Galway transport strategy, to safeguard the future development and growth of Galway city and its role as the economic centre of the west of Ireland, it was considered important to develop a long-term transportation strategy that would complement and support the Galway City Development Plan. The Galway transport strategy was developed on a joint basis by the NTA and Galway City and County Councils as an integrated transport plan, the primary purpose of which was to co-ordinate and consolidate the planning and implementation of transport proposals in Galway.

The key issues identified as part of the study were an over-reliance on private car travel; significant peak-hour congestion and journey time unreliability; significant dispersed traffic movements to, through and around the city centre area; constraints to national, regional and local transport movements, all of which funnel through Galway city, including all movement to and from Connemara; limited bridge crossings on the River Corrib; key junctions operating over capacity; an inappropriate mix of transport modes within the city centre due to limited road space; a public transport service and network in need of enhanced capacity and additional priority; a limited, discontinuous cycle network; restricted footpaths, poor accessibility for disabled-mobility impaired; and associated safety issues due to poor walking and cycling infrastructure. The Galway transport strategy, GTS, has identified key transport infrastructure projects and service requirements which will address the existing transportation issues and provides a framework for their phased implementation, subject to funding. These infrastructural projects include an enhanced city traffic network; an improved bus network with a minimum frequency of 15 minutes or better at peak time and improved residential and commercial access to a bus in a ten minute walk; improved bus priority measures; and new park and ride services and improved walking and cycling routes.
The strategy was subject to extensive public consultation and a full environmental assessment. The proposals were developed and assessed using the NTA's transport model for the region and a comprehensive demand analysis was undertaken utilising key census data to derive a new core bus network. The GTS has been adopted into the development plans of the two local authorities and was a key factor in Galway city winning the European green leaf designation for 2017. One of the issues considered in the development of the strategy was whether a light rail solution - Luas - would be required for any of the transport corridors in the city. Based on a full transport modelling assessment, it was concluded that the provision of a light rail system would not be the appropriate transport solution for Galway city at this time. The maximum passenger corridor demand was forecast at roughly 1,100 passengers per hour per direction, which would equate to roughly one third of the operating capacity for a light rail service running at an appropriate frequency, making it a highly inefficient solution. The implementation timeline and capital costs, which would be approximately ten times that of a bus operated system, also weigh heavily against the introduction of Luas in Galway city at this time.
The economic importance of the wider Parkmore employment area is fully recognised by the NTA and is addressed at a strategic level in the Galway transport strategy. Three of the core bus services identified in the strategy will run to Parkmore, which will also eventually be served by the proposed N6 Galway city ring road. The NTA has recently appointed a design team to undertake a more focussed local transportation study of Parkmore. This study will provide a detailed breakdown of the infrastructural projects required to facilitate the short, medium and long term implementation of the strategy in Parkmore. It is anticipated that this study will allow for an accelerated delivery of new transportation options to Parkmore, providing relief for existing employees and facilitating future growth.
The implementation of the proposals in the Galway transport strategy will be challenging. However, I believe that their delivery will protect and enhance the future development of the city as an economic and cultural centre in the west of Ireland. We await the announcements in the national development plan to ascertain what funding is available to deliver on the recommendations in the strategy. I look forward to working with Galway City Council, Galway County Council and public transport operators to deliver this ambitious strategy for Galway.

I thank Ms Graham. Ms Graham's script is currently being copied and it will be circulated soon.

Mr. Brendan McGrath

I thank the committee for this opportunity to engage with it. I am accompanied by Mr. Uinsinn Finn, senior engineer - transportation, who, at the end of my introductory remarks, will give a brief outline of aims of the Galway transport strategy, which will build on the presentation of the National Transport Authority, NTA.

My apologies for interrupting, but some colleagues do not have copies of the presentations as they were only made available to members of the committee.

For the information of the witnesses, there are Members of the Oireachtas present who are not members of the committee. Is it in order to proceed until the copies are available or would members like to adjourn the meeting until then?

We are happy to proceed as long as we receive copies of all of the opening statements, if possible.

I will do my best to ensure members get them.

Mr. Brendan McGrath

We look forward to the launch of the national planning framework, NPF, this Friday. The draft national planing framework highlights the importance of our cities and the population growth ambition rates for the cities. It references compact forms of urban development in all types of settlements, supported by public transport, and it states that Galway's population is targeted to grow by 45,000 by 2040 which interestingly is twice as much to 2040 as was achieved in the period up to 2016. It also references the focus on investment in infrastructure and livability and choice in terms of housing and employment and supporting new employment opportunities.

The draft NPF highlights 13 growth enablers for Galway. I propose to focus on what is needed in transport terms to enable Galway to grow. The draft NPF references progressing the sustainable development of new greenfield areas for housing and the development of supporting public transport and infrastructure, such as is proposed for Ardaun; improving access and sustainable transport links to and integrated with existing employment areas to the east of the city such as Parkmore, Ballybrit and Mervue; the provision of a city-wide public transport network with enhanced accessibility between existing and proposed residential areas and the city centre, third level institutions and employment areas to the east of the city; focuses on public realm and urban amenity projects, including streets, public spaces, particularly in support of an extended city centre area where residential and employment areas can be linked to pedestrian routes; and development of a strategic cycleway network with a number of high capacity flagship routes and the delivery of the Galway city ring road, which my county council colleagues will speak about later.

As everybody here will be aware, Galway city is a medieval city and so it has a compact city centre core with low density suburbs. It has been referred to by others as the fastest growing city in Europe. The city has succeeded in driving forward its economic development and today it has a world class medical technology cluster within it, which thankfully is continuing to grow. Galway City Council recognises that the socioeconomic development of the city is foremost and we also recognise that address of the transportation issues is critical because it is clearly impacting on the reputation of the city. If this issue is not addressed, attracting new economic investment and creating new jobs in the city will be difficult. As per the statistics outlined by the chief executive of the NTA there are over 43,000 journeys to employment across the various sectors in Galway: the five national routes coming into the city carry over 80,000 vehicles per day and approximately 95,000 vehicles cross four bridges in the city, three of which are in the city centre. Morning peak traffic on the M6 in 2013 stood at 3,200 vehicles. Prior to the opening of the M17-M18, it stood at 4,600 and today it stands at 6,250.

Some of the current challenges for us in terms of transport include an over-reliance on private car travel in Galway city; significant dispersed traffic movements to, through and around the city centre; constraints to national, regional and local transport movements, all of which funnel through Galway city, including all movement to and from Connemara; and, as I stated earlier, there are limited bridge crossings, three of which are in the city centre.

The sea to the lake is a distance of 5 km, north to south, while east to west, the distance across the city is between 8 km and 9 km, depending on from where one judges that. Traffic solutions are also impacted by constraints such as topography, water and extensive areas of protected habitats. Finding solutions has been difficult and extensive, as we will outline specifically in respect of the city ring road.

Many of the key junctions in the city are operating way beyond their capacity. They operate at between 120% and 140% of capacity at peak times. There is an inappropriate mix of transport modes in the city centre due to the limited road space for all the different public transport modes. There is significant peak hour congestion and journey times are uncertain. Most important, there are associated safety concerns.

The city's public transport network is in need of enhanced capacity and additional priority. We have a limited and discontinuous cycle network and the NTA emphasises that we have restricted footpaths and poor accessibility for disabled and mobility impaired persons. There are significant safety issues, especially for pedestrians. For example, we shot a video at the Kirwan roundabout one morning and made a presentation to the city council about removing it at our second last meeting. The number of near misses involving pedestrians was frightening and that happens every day. There are 1,000 pedestrian movements across that roundabout between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. People are jumping lanes of traffic to cross the roundabout and that is just one example.

As Ms Graham outlined, the Galway transport strategy, GTS, has been brought forward as the solution. It is an evidence-based strategy for the region, which sets out a clear vision to create a connected city region driven by smarter mobility. The strategy has been adopted by both Galway City Council and Galway County Council and it has been included in the development plans of both local authorities. The GTS provides a framework for implementing transport proposals in Galway for the next 20 plus years. It is a consistent policy and builds on previous studies carried out in the area. We welcome and appreciate the partnership with the NTA in developing the strategy, which covers the city and the surrounding hinterland from Barna to Moycullen, Oranmore and Claregalway.

Mr. Finn will take the committee through the key features of the strategy but, fundamentally, it provides benefits to regional and intercity bus services via cross-city links; bus priority measures; interchange between regional bus and rail services and the city bus network via a hub in the city centre; park-and-ride sites on key strategic corridor approaches; cross-city bus services between Barna and Oranmore; the N6-Galway city ring road scheme will enhance connectivity to the western region; and the proposed cycle network includes integration with potential greenways to Moycullen and Barna and the Dublin-Galway greenway. The strategy was put in place following extensive consultation and developed using the NTA's new and bespoke model for the west. It is evidence-based and it uses a comprehensive demand management analysis, which uses key census data. A number of new bus networks are at its core. The reconfiguration and rationalisation of bus routes in the city will provide, for example, three connections from the west of the city to the Parkmore area.

Mr. Uinsinn Finn

The next slide outlines the seven principles of the GTS. The focus of the strategy is very much on the city centre core to prioritise pedestrian use, cycling and public transport and to allow vehicular traffic into the city centre primarily to access car parks while making improvements in the city centre core to enable traffic to flow. A key element is bus priority through the city centre to reduce bus journey times and provide reliability in respect of journey times for customers. Coupled with that, a number of the primary routes of the city on the bus network, particularly on the Dublin Road, will have bus priority to enhance journey times. The following slide outlines the modelling that was done on the public transport bus network. It shows the existing bus routes and the proposed new bus routes with the enhancement provided. It shows the number of people that will be within a ten-minute walk of a bus stop in the city centre under the new arrangement. Up to 77% of people will be within ten minutes of a bus stop and 72% of them will be near where people work. That will provide much better access to buses. There will be increased priority for infrastructural improvements on those routes to reduce journey times. There also will be a cycling network with different tiers. Working with our funding agencies, the NTA and TII, we will look to develop them over the coming years to provide better connectivity throughout the city for cycling and walking.

Alternatives to the GTS were examined as well. With regard to light rail and rapid transit, the current rapid transit usage is 1,100 passengers per hour and the current bus network can meet that capacity. Our focus is very much on providing priority for the bus network and future proofing it as the city expands. It is a low density city centre core with many of the suburbs comprising semi-detached houses. Currently, the population density required for commuters to be within a ten-minute walk of a light rail system does not support such a system.

One of the other key considerations related to the city orbital route. If everything in the GTS relating to public transport, walking and cycling improvements was done, the modelling showed that the orbital route would be still required to reduce traffic congestion out of the city centre and to provide the bus priority that is needed.

The final slide outlines that the GTS is excellent in that it is a strategy for the city for the next 30 years. We are moving forward quickly to get projects to planning stage. We have projects at construction stage but we expect a significant increase in funding in the capital plan to enable works to move to construction. Parkmore access improvements are ongoing. We have had a number of projects in the past year and I am sure there will be enhanced budget provision for those in 2018 and beyond. As Mr. McGrath mentioned, the Kirwan roundabout upgrade is a TII-funded project and we hope that will go to construction at the end of the year. It is at Part 8 in the planning process currently and we hope to have that in front of our city councillors shortly. The Tuam Road is another key project while the city centre transport management plan is at design stage. An update was presented to councillors at their January meeting. That is very much about bus priority in the city centre and improvements to traffic flow outside the city centre. There is a project for the Dublin Road as well as cycling and greenway projects. General junction safety improvements for pedestrians throughout the city will be undertaken and, last but not least, is the Galway city ring road.

I apologise to members who have not received copies of the presentation but they are on the way. I call Mr. Kelly.

Mr. Kevin Kelly

I am joined by Mr. Jim Cullen, director of service, infrastructure and operations, and Mr. Michael Timmins, director of service, planning and environment. I am conscious of the number of people who are due to contribute and, therefore, I will not read through the document that has been circulated.

I will, however, touch on a number of key points.

Something worth emphasising is the fact that Galway city and county work together in addressing transportation issues in Galway city and its environs by means of a number of section 85 agreements, whereby one or other of the two local authorities takes the lead on different parts of the process to avoid duplication and ensure close collaboration. That collaboration extends to our relationship with the NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, which has been robust and beneficial for some time.

I wish to address the part of the overall solution that is being led by Galway County Council, namely, the Galway city ring road. The Galway transport strategy, GTS, included an evaluation of transport options for all modes of transport and affirmed the strategic need for an orbital route around Galway city to achieve the level of service required for each mode of transport, including walking, cycling, public transport and private vehicles.

The ring road proposal is effectively 5.6 km of single carriageway and 11.9 km of dual carriageway with associated road junctions and structures, including a new bridge crossing the River Corrib. Mr. McGrath has outlined some of the constraints on delivering a solution, including Galway Bay to the south, the River Corrib, which divides the city, and a number of sites protected by the habitats directive, for example, the Lough Corrib candidate special area of conservation, SAC, and the Moycullen bogs complex candidate SAC. From the outset, and given the linear nature of the city and the limited available space between Lough Corrib and the built-up area, the environmental constraints needed to be balanced against impacts on residential, commercial and institutional property. It is worth noting that the project's study area covered a total of 63 sq. km. As such, an extensive area was considered when devising a solution.

The proposal for a ring road in Galway has been supported in policy documents from national to local level, including the Galway city and county development plans, the regional planning guidelines, the national spatial strategy and the draft national planning framework. I will not outline the issues that have arisen that necessitate the requirement for an overall transport solution, as they have been well rehearsed by now and are well understood, and it is agreed that they need urgent attention.

In terms of options identification and assessment, a preferred option was developed in accordance with national and international design standards and the relevant regulatory and statutory requirements and guidelines. Alternatives were comprehensively appraised in accordance with the Department's framework for transport projects and programmes and TII's project appraisal guidelines. These alternatives included every sort of scenario from doing nothing to doing the minimum, from on-line upgrades to off-line upgrades, public transport options, etc. There was extensive consultation with the public during the options identification stage, with more than 1,400 people attending a series of four open days in January and February of 2015 and 994 submissions received during that part of the process.

My submission to the committee outlines in figure 1 the diagram of the proposed road solution currently being advanced. It is an extensive piece of infrastructure going from the R336 Coast Road to the N59 Galway-Clifden road and on across the N84 Headford Road, the N83 Tuam Road and the Monivea Road and on to meet the N6 at Coolagh junction. Each of those junctions is grade separated, ensuring the greatest flow of traffic across the city as well as in and out of it.

The economic valuation has presented a benefit-cost ratio of strength that is rarely seen in an infrastructural project like this. The business case has been approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Throughout the process of delivering the project, there has been extensive consultation with landowners and stakeholders, with all identified landowners and property owners having been contacted. There have been 1,000 face-to-face meetings with landowners in their homes or in the project office. The council maintains a project website, which has had 43,000 visits to date. Throughout that period, there also have been extensive consultations with An Bord Pleanála and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, particularly on environmental issues. Further consultation is to take place with An Bord Pleanála in the coming period. It is hoped these consultations will be brought to a conclusion shortly.

An extensive amount of work has been done in terms of all aspects of the design and planning of this project. We hope to be in a position to submit the scheme to An Bord Pleanála as early as April. Depending on what happens after that, including whether there are legal challenges and so forth, construction could be expected to be completed by 2024.

There is a compelling need for the proposed road. The mood has changed from wondering whether it is necessary to one of asking us as authorities when it will be done. The chief executive of Galway City Council mentioned the national planning framework. It is pertinent to consider Galway's future in that context without the ring road and the associated other transport initiatives that are under way. It is clear that Galway will not, and cannot, grow without these infrastructural provisions. In the current environment, if Galway cannot grow, it can only regress. The delivery of this transport solution is essential for Galway's future. We have received good support for it to date. My request is that we receive continued strong support across Departments and from the Government itself in terms of advancing the project through the next phases and, in due course, providing funding to have it constructed.

I thank Mr. Kelly. I call Mr. Coll.

Mr. Brian Coll

I am a lecturer in engineering in IT Sligo with 20 years in the industry. Like all commuters in Galway, we know a great deal about traffic. My experience and expertise is in systems optimisation and product and process flow. I wish to share with the committee a new perspective on how these tools and techniques can be used to improve traffic flow.

I will highlight some data and background. A recent INRIX global traffic congestion report placed Galway as the 70th worst city in the world, the tenth worst in Europe and the worst in Ireland for traffic congestion. This demonstrates that our current approach to reducing congestion is not working. We need to change. We need to start using data to make decisions, adopt new technologies such as Waze, which I will discuss later, use standardised and internationally accepted metrics such as journey time to track progress, and implement short-term - three-to-six months - process-driven initiatives to improve traffic flow. For example, a recent initiative in Boston showed an 18% reduction in traffic congestion using these new techniques. Coincidentally, this is estimated to be the same approximate reduction in overall travel time for the Galway transport network following the completion of the N6 outer bypass. The same principles can be implemented nationwide from Cork to Donegal and from Mayo to Maynooth.

As a general comment, the proposal I am presenting should be seen as complementary to the GTS, which has been already outlined. The GTS provides a framework for implementing transport proposals over the next 20 years. The planned improvements in public transport, pedestrian and cycling initiatives and the new N6 Galway city ring road are to be welcomed. However, we must implement shorter term 20-week plans in parallel.

To start the journey today, we are not looking for money - we are looking for data. Once we have the data, we can use them to make data-driven decisions. Research has shown that, when we do not have real-time accurate data, decisions are made using the HiPPO effect - the highest paid person's opinion.

Where will we get these data? How much will it cost? Other cities have partnered with a company called Waze and receive these data for free. Waze is the world's largest community-based traffic and navigation application, which can be downloaded to a phone. With it, drivers can share real-time traffic and road information, saving everyone time on their daily commute. Waze has 500 city partners around the world with about ten signing up each week. It works with them through its connected citizens programme. No Irish cities or towns are currently listed as being a member of this programme. We have been in contact with Waze through Senator Ó Céidigh's office. It responded to say that, based on our profile, it thinks we are a great fit for the Waze connected citizens programme.

Once we get these data from Waze, we can identify bottlenecks in the system that reduce the flow of traffic. In Galway, one could argue that we do not have a traffic problem but a traffic flow problem. Traffic management interventions require the removal of these traffic flow blockers on key city commuting routes. In my full submission to the committee, I listed ten, but I want to give one or two examples. We all know them. We should look at right turns which block traffic flow on these free-flow routes. We should optimise traffic light timing and sequencing between sets of traffic lights. Road works are major traffic blockers. Road openings, as they are called, which result in the closure of a traffic lane, are a major source of traffic congestion. The guidelines on road openings recently published by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport are to be welcomed. However, we should go a step further and implement lane rental charges on major commuting routes. For example, if one wants to open a lane in London, one has to pay the city between £300 and £2,500 per day. That focuses the mind. It has been an effective programme and has saved it approximately £30 million from congestion issues. It has been rolled out across London. It has a net profit compared to what it costs to run.

The Arthouse Cinema has had a lane closed on Dock Road in Galway for approximately five years now. There may be a reason for that but it should not happen. We need to test innovative solutions. There is a technique called a zipper merge which would work well for traffic merging or could at least be considered. Drone footage should be looked at. We have had a licensed operator take drone footage of some major junctions in Galway and many traffic flow blockers are evident. While there are individual examples of such interventions in Galway, we need to implement a structured process and approach to addressing traffic flow blockers on key routes. Only then will synergies be achieved across the traffic network. We see evidence of what can be achieved to reduce congestion with the traffic management plan implemented for the Galway races each year. Free flow routes are put in place for the week, designated blue, green and red. London has 580 km of permanent red routes to assist traffic flow on major bus and commuting routes.

To implement this plan in the short term, we need to trust the process. If we trust the process, outcomes will follow. When Irish rugby players are asked about their success, they credit it to the plan, performance and the Schmidt system. Passion is not enough. We need to implement a standardised metric, such as journey time, to set goals and track progress. As one leaves today to go home, one will be interested in the time it will take. There are other metrics in the plan - perhaps ten - which are important but the customer-focused metric is journey time, no matter what the mode of transport is. Except for certain parts of the motorway network, we do not report journey time in Ireland live. Our traffic reports on national and local radio use terms such as easing, moving slowly, very slow and moving well. In the USA and other countries, live journey times on key traffic routes are reported. I have a recording of such a report here, which I will play for members. They will hear a US traffic report, followed by an Irish traffic report.

Mr. Coll should say QED. That was a very enlightening and interesting presentation, as were the others. It brings in thinking from outside the box. I ask Mr. Tony Neary, vice president and general manager of Medtronic Ireland Limited, to make his address.

Mr. Tony Neary

Good afternoon. I thank the Chairman and committee for their interest in our views on traffic and congestion. I will speak specifically about Parkmore in Galway. Before I speak about the challenges, I am keen to share the remarkable success story of the medtech sector here. Ireland is home to eight of the world's top ten medtech companies. Galway plays a vital role as a global hub for the industry. More than 29,000 people are employed in the medtech industry across 450 companies. The medtech industry has made, and continues to make, a critical contribution to making Ireland one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. The committee has heard many statistics from the speakers so far. Our most important statistic in Medtronic is simple. Every second, two patients' lives are saved or improved by a Medtronic device. It is crucial not one of these patients is a statistic. Each of these 70 million people has individual thoughts and dreams. That drives us as a company. Our mission is to alleviate pain, restore health and extend life.

I am unbelievably proud that, for over 35 years, and with more than 3,000 employees and 45 nationalities at the Parkmore site, we have helped to drive that mission forward with breakthrough advances in medical care in areas as diverse as drug-eluting stents, aortic aneurism repair, aortic valve repair and leadless pacemakers as examples. We experience a pace of change in medtech that has never been witnessed before. Technologies are diverging and converging very rapidly. I have been involved in the medtech industry for over 25 years and have seen significant change in this time. The truth is that when I talk to young engineers coming into the medtech industry, I tell them that I am jealous of them because the change that will happen in the next five to ten years will far outweigh what has happened in the past 25 years. It is our job to imagine that change and make it a reality.

Unfortunately, that leads me to talk about what has not changed. The infrastructure in Parkmore has not kept pace with the success delivered by the businesses there. This has not happened overnight. Last October, we celebrated our 35 year anniversary on the campus in Medtronic. When we had that celebration, we saw aerial footage of what the campus originally looked like. The only thing that has not changed in 35 years is the road network in and out of the campus. The road is exactly the same as it was 35 years ago. Every other speaker here today has much more detailed knowledge of the various aspects of the traffic challenge and solutions than I have, but I am here to share the business perspective and to emphasise the nature of the deterioration in recent years.

The Parkmore campus employs 6,000 people, 3,000 of whom work for Medtronic. I do not need to point out the contribution of these businesses to local commerce, providing vital jobs to the community and supporting national economic growth. Mr. Coll mentioned that INRIX transport analytics show that Galway city is the worst in Ireland. Parkmore is the epicentre of this and needs its own immediate solutions. Employees are faced with long delays coming to and from work every day, which is increasingly affecting businesses and their ability to keep and attract talent. Parkmore staff have grown extremely frustrated by the daily challenge they face to merely get to and from their place of work. Employees regularly encounter two-hour traffic delays on a daily basis when driving in and out of the estate. That is not their commute. That is time taken to get in and out of the estate, which hopefully gives a sense of the gravity of the situation.

This impacts productivity, engagement and ultimately employees' capacity in their work. As a company, our only secret to success is our employees. That is what delivers results for us and it is vital that we have an engaged workforce to deliver results.

More importantly than that, this affects people's quality of life on a daily basis. In order to find a solution, Medtronic has worked hard to help tackle the traffic problem. We have an active traffic group within the company, which has spawned initiatives like car-pooling. We have a very active cycling group and an active commuter village, in which we have invested heavily to make sure we have state-of-the art cycling facilities. We have appointed independent traffic consultants. We have teamed up with other industries and the State and worked with various Government bodies in the Parkmore Traffic Action Group, PTAG, which is focused on providing a collective voice to drive change. Within the campus, across all businesses, there is an active HR sub-team that collaborates to organise shift patterns etc. to do what can be done to manage traffic.

The Galway transport strategy is a crucial part of a long-term solution to alleviating traffic congestion in Parkmore and in Galway city. We acknowledge that a Galway city ring-road is a vital component to this and we fully support one. The reality is that extended timelines around the delivery of this piece of infrastructure means that our options must be explored in the immediate term.

Anybody who works in Parkmore will attest that one of the most frustrating aspects of this is that every year a huge traffic management plan is put in place for the Galway Races, which are held right beside Parkmore. Anybody working in Parkmore will agree that the only time traffic works well there is during the Galway Races when 20,000 extra people come there. Results can be driven. We need to stop talking and deliver them.

In regard to progress, while the traffic situation remains acute, I acknowledge that there have been some positive developments in the recent past which are worth highlighting. An adjustment to signalling and new road markings have helped the situation somewhat in the evenings. It is also welcome that, in the week that we are here to discuss traffic, work has started on a new exit lane from Parkmore west. Unfortunately this work has been significantly later than anticipated, but I acknowledge the work and the fact that this will help alleviate the situation.

I come from an industry where I am judged solely on delivering results. I would like this committee to ensure it sees results in Parkmore and across Galway. I am appealing to those in power to implement and promote change to deliver results, and present a vision that reflects the success of Galway industry and embraces future opportunities. We should not be afraid of being successful. We should plan for it and make sure we set ourselves up for it.

I acknowledge that no immediate silver bullet is available. However, the need for urgent, focused and collaborative action to tackle congestion is indisputable. I would very much welcome the opportunity to come back to this committee to report that results have been delivered. Businesses right across Galway and right across Parkmore, including Medtronic, have a responsibility and a role to play in working with all other stakeholders to alleviate this problem. We are fully committed to doing that. I welcome any questions on these topics.

We have heard from our witnesses and I thank them for the significant contributions each of them made. In the light of questions that may follow, other speakers may wish to contribute on an issue, to get it right, as the man said. Chuir an Seanadóir Ó Céidigh an clár don chruinniú seo ar bun. I will call an Seanadóir Pádraig Ó Céidigh first. Committee members will get priority and after that I will try to balance everybody out so that we will still be friends after the event.

Normally we take the Fine Gael group, followed by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Independents. If that is reasonable, after our two opening speakers we will proceed that way.

I am thinking of the Deputy. Without restricting anybody's contribution, I ask speakers to try to limit their remarks to three or four minutes if possible.

Go raibh míle maith agat, a Chathaoirleach. Tá mé an-bhuíoch duit agus d'fhoireann an choiste as ucht comhoibriú liom ionas go dtarlódh an cruinniú fíorthábhachtach seo. Tá mé an-bhuíoch do na finnéithe ar fad a tháinig isteach agus, go háirithe, do mo chomhghleacaithe anseo - na Teachtaí Dála agus na Seanadóirí as ceantar na Gaillimhe - as an tsuim atá acu san fhadhb seo a léiriú. Is ábhar an-mhór agus fíorthábhachtach é seo. Dar liom, is é ceann de na rudaí is práinní atá againn in iarthar na hÉireann.

I will not go through the statistics. They have been illustrated very well by all of the speakers. I will not spend a long time talking, because I am really keen that everybody gets a chance to contribute. This is not about me or any single person. It is about all of us working together. As Mr. Neary said, in business we are measured by results. One is measured by what one achieves. He also called on us to stop talking and to start more action. That is the world I come from too.

Mr. McGrath outlined the situation where traffic congestion is concerned. There are more than 6,000 vehicles at morning peak time, which is between 120% and 140% above capacity. The population of Galway is going to grow by 45,000 in the next 22 years. We cannot cope with existing traffic, never mind what is going to happen. I am really scared that we will keep doing what we have always done. Members know the outcome of that. We will get what we always got.

I have some brief questions. Can Ms Graham, Mr. McGrath and Mr. Kelly tell me a little bit about the relationship between the three different organisations, how well they are working together and their joined-up thinking? That is my first question.

My second relates to Galway City Council and Galway County Council and the level of their engagement with companies like Medtronic that employ a significant number of people in the Galway area.

The personal stories are really important. Can Mr. Neary share with us some of the challenges his staff members go through? I am from Spiddal and I used to travel to school in Galway by bus every day. I would leave at 8.20 a.m. and I would be in school 8.50 a.m. If I left my parents' house at 8.20 a.m. today, I would arrive at the same destination at 9.30 a.m. That is 45 years later. Look at the backward step we have taken. It is absolutely incredible. I am keen to see what Ms Graham, Mr. Kelly and Mr. McGrath's short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives are. In regard to their first, second and third objectives, what are the key performance indicators, KPIs, determining whether goals are being achieved or not? What is the project management strategy?

When Senator Ó Céidigh came up with this idea, I was glad to support him in any way I could. I bow to all my esteemed colleagues from Galway, but I can provide a little perspective. Despite living 60 miles away, I have had huge involvement in Galway over the last 20 years. I thank the witnesses for their presentations. When I saw them, the first thing I looked for was solutions. I am interested in seeing action. I have seen this issue, and one would not have to be an engineer, a planner or anything else to know that a totally choked bottleneck is imminent. Culturally and historically, Galway is a wonderful city. It is unique for its welcome to tourism. However, the way I would see it, it is operating with its hands tied behind its back when transport and congestion are considered. I refer to the development of the massive potential there. The Connemara area can be opened up to tourism.

I have been at some public meetings in recent years at which people objected to the ring road and proposed that light rail would solve the matter and so on. I think all these solutions are needed, but the time for action has arrived.

I have a few quick questions. I welcome all the presentations. I was very interested in Brian Coll's because he seemed to be thinking on a different level or plane. How would all the other contributors respond to what Brian Coll has said about improving the current bottlenecks? I will not talk about individual roundabouts or anything else - I will leave that to my Galway colleagues - because I have no agenda except to see this sorted out. Medtronic has expanded greatly over the years. Has the issue of traffic congestion hampered this expansion? Would Medtronic be bigger if there were a better traffic flow? In other words, does it make it more difficult to recruit at times? Hypothetically, if Medtronic were to expand or announce 1,000 new jobs in the morning, how would the traffic in Galway affect such a decision? What dynamic would it have? Finally, how do all the council officials see this rolling out? What will Galway city be like in five years' time and ten years' time? Regarding the figure that was mentioned of an increase in population of 40,000, unless something changes radically that will not happen because people just will not be able either to commute to or live in a city that is hampered as it is at present.

As I said initially, to get this right I will move to members of the committee first. The only remaining member not to have made a contribution is Deputy Troy.

I am allocating the Fianna Fáil time to my two colleagues, Deputies Éamon Ó Cuív and Anne Rabbitte.

Fair enough. I will take whoever wishes to go first.

We all know about the problem. For anyone who either works in Galway or has to try to get in and out of it, the simple fact of the matter is that most of us avoid travelling between 8 o'clock and 9.30 a. m. If I am in the office at 5 o'clock in the evening, I never bother leaving until 7 p.m. because all I will be doing is sitting in a car in a car park, so there are major problems. Before we come to the big changes, what are the impediments to making the small changes we need, or are there impediments? The witnesses have talked about lane changes, minor widenings, which are being done on the way to Parkmore, co-ordinating the traffic lights, getting rid of some of the roundabouts that should be long gone and so on. Are there planning or design impediments to just getting on and doing these things? They make quite a significant difference and they can be done quickly. I am very interested in Brian Coll's submission. It would be very handy if one could just check when to leave. We are playing a guessing game at present. We sit in our offices and do not know when it is safe to leave and be able to get out of town. Information can be of huge benefit to making things happen. The people who do not have to be there at a fixed time can put travelling back by half an hour. If that can make an 18% improvement, that kind of technological solution is absolutely vital, and technology can make a huge difference in the modern world. I would be interested to know whether city council and county council or the NTA has looked at traffic management.

I read this plan two years ago on my holidays.

Is fear bocht thú.

I know. These are the sad things I do on my holidays. It came out in August 2016. I went through it and I buy into its analysis. My attitude is that it needs to be done in total as soon as possible. Therefore, I buy into the public transport element of it but I also buy into the fact that this cannot be done unless one builds the road around the city. However, building a road around the city and not carrying out the public transport work will not work either. We should just get on with fully implementing this. I share the concern that, when we have done all that, if we do get 40,000 more people in the city and another 40,000 people within 40 miles of the city, we may still be at a zero-sum game, but we will ask the NTA about that another day.

This study has one big weakness in that it basically concerns Barna and Moycullen to Claregalway and Oranmore. My understanding - perhaps Tony Neary could confirm this - is that approximately 46% of the employees in Parkmore Estate alone come from the county area, mainly from the east, and an awful lot of those are in turn from beyond Claregalway and Oranmore. I accept that one is fine if one is in a car on the motorway route; one is sorted once one gets clear of the town. However, there are two issues that do not seem to be addressed in the study. One is how one gets from Galway to Carrowroe, as mentioned by an Seanadóir Ó Céidigh. That can take an hour and a half either way in the morning and the evening, which is totally unacceptable for the distance involved. Regarding the part nearest Galway, the journey is fine from Baile na hAbhann outwards; it is the near end that is the problem. The other issue is who is responsible for this wider planning. This plan just gets us to Barna, to Oranmore. Who is responsible for the wider planning of transport in the region? Galway is meant to be a regional grower and many of Medtronic's employees will insist on living where they are from no matter what plans we bring in. We should be practical about that. That is the way it will be.

Finally, who would be responsible for the analysis and the development of an existing resource, that is, commuter rail into Galway? I see this as coming from the north, the east and the south and drawing up a plan as to what it would take to use the existing assets that are there and sweat them to their absolute maximum ability. We have seen big growth in traffic from Athenry by accident since the train to Limerick started because there is some frequency to it. However, my question is who has the responsibility of analysing what could be achieved at a modest investment if the current assets, that is, three railway lines going in three different directions, were sweated, passing bays and so on, in order to achieve frequency of trains and a focus on commuters. It is crazy that we do not have any commuter service into Galway. All over Northern Ireland, from Bangor to Derry and everywhere else, services are very much focused on the needs of the commuter. Which authority, county council, city council or other body - the NTA, TII - is responsible for making a policy decision to examine this and come up with a solution?

Before I call Deputy Anne Rabbitte, I will give members a heads-up. Normally, it would be Fine Gael first, followed by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Independents. I will call Deputy Naughton after Deputy Rabbitte. Then we will go to answers and then work out what is the best way to deal with all the different Independents here and keep them all happy.

I thank all the witnesses for making their presentations. This is not a committee on which I normally sit, so I thank the committee members for affording me the opportunity to contribute. I come from east Galway, which was not discussed at all in any of the presentations, so I represent that part of the county that is home to over 46% of the staff of Parkmore Estate, as my colleague, Deputy Ó Cuív said. Coming from Headford and Tuam, along the M6 and with the opening of the M17 and the M18, we are now funnelling even more quickly into the city.

My first question is for Mr. Tony Neary. How long will it take to get the extra slip road that started on Monday completed? Believe it or not, one of my Facebook pages is usually very busy with Mr. Neary's employees contacting me about their frustration with how long they are left sitting in traffic because they cannot make it home on time in the evenings to get to the crèche, doctor's appointments or parent-teacher meetings. While there is progress, the staff in that zone are frustrated and annoyed with how slow it is.

The next question is for the county manager, the city manager and the NTA. Are there funding allocations for putting a dedicated bus corridor or bus lane in place from places such as Athenry and Tuam, far enough out to cope with the capacity so we can keep traffic out of the city? If it works very well during race week, what are the hold ups preventing it being rolled out for a 52-week period?

Finally, with regard to thinking outside the box, I welcome Mr. Brian Coll's presentation. There is a thing called the "bendy bus". I do not know if people have heard of it or if they can discuss it, but has consideration ever been given to putting a bendy bus in places such as Headford, Athenry or Tuam and running it into Galway? It could service Parkmore with a park and ride and keep the traffic out. I believe that would have merit even while we are discussing the bigger stuff. As Brian Coll said, we need time-measured results. There are the bigger pictures mentioned here, but we need results at present. I was in the United States last year and the only thing people spoke about regarding Galway was how long they were stuck in the car. That is not the image I would wish for it, so we need short-term solutions as well as long-term ones. However, the short-term solutions and gains are not very short term when one hears from Mr. Tony Neary about how long it took to complete the slip road.

Deputy Naughton is next. After that we will get some replies to the questions in the order in which they were asked. I will try to keep it fair and objective for everybody. Then I will call the Independent members.

I thank the witnesses for appearing before the committee this afternoon. I also thank Senator Ó Céidigh for instigating this discussion. This is a critical issue for Members of the Oireachtas representing east and west Galway and south Mayo. There are huge numbers of commuters coming from outside the county area, as has been highlighted. It is significant that Mr. Tony Neary from Medtronic is present. I am sure he would prefer not to be here talking about a negative issue that is affecting not only his company but also the 6,000 employees in Parkmore Business and Technology Park, not to mention the traffic problems across the city.

The key issue is solutions. We must work on short-term to medium-term solutions as well as the long-term picture. Last year, I invited the then Minister with responsibility for local government, Deputy Simon Coveney, to Galway to meet local authority members and business leaders in the Parkmore area with regard to setting out timeframes, targets and actions for the short, medium and long terms. That happened and there was good progress at the time, but it has gone off the boil over the last few months. One can hear today the sense of frustration with the lack of movement. Funding is not the issue, and the witnesses can correct me if I am wrong. We were told that last year. It is about setting out targets and timeframes and having a plan of action. Does the city manager need a project manager? What are the stumbling blocks to progressing this? I realise there are planning issues, CPOs and so forth. We should lay them out on the public record. Are more resources required from the Department? What is needed to assist the county manager? The plans and solutions exist. I hear this constantly from the multinationals. However, there is a great sense of frustration that they have the solutions and they are willing to work and even invest with regard to funding, but the push or drive is not there. If it is the case that more resources and a project manager are required to drive this, that must happen. The elected representatives would be willing to assist in that regard.

I agree with Mr. Coll about laying out the short-term picture. He said there must be parallel solutions. There are many small items. They will not be the silver bullet solution, and none of us is saying that. However, there is definitely a lack of progress in pushing this agenda not just for Parkmore but across the city. We need a public integrated transport system and park and ride facilities to be identified north, south, east and west of the city centre. Can both the county manager and city manager explain the current position with regard to identifying park and ride sites? We need those sites and, as my colleague mentioned, the bus routes and lanes so people are not sitting in traffic. If they are in a bus, they will be on a designated bus lane. What is the position with that? What are the stumbling blocks to progressing it? These are the solutions, and that is what we need to emerge from this meeting. Yes, the outer city bypass is extremely important but that will take at least ten years. If it is less, that would be great and I will stand corrected. However, we cannot sit on our hands until then. We must have the parallel process taking place on the short-term and medium-term solutions. Integrated public transport and park and ride sites will be key to that. There is a great willingness on the part of the multinationals to work with everybody. If a project manager is needed, the witness should say that now. This is the time to do so. As I understand it, funding is not the issue. It is a lack of leadership in dealing with our traffic problems.

After the witnesses respond I will call Deputies Connolly, Grealish and Fitzmaurice. I wish to ask a question. I am not a native of Galway, but one of the solutions must be about future planning. Will there be a higher density of housing? Will you increase development contributions in certain parts, perhaps to encourage people to develop where you want them to do so? There is the issue of going up rather than out and the question of areas that might require redevelopment. I do not know if you have a plan regarding what areas you want to develop first. However, the day is long gone where people can live where they wish in terms of spread out cities and towns. We have to be far more cognitive of the issues that cause the type of congestion being experienced.

Who wishes to speak first? I want you to be happy that you can comment freely.

Ms Anne Graham

We will start with Mr. Creegan.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

I will start with some of the points made by Senator Ó Céidigh. The first question was about the relationship between ourselves and the city and county councils. We have a very good working relationship with both authorities. We probably deal more with the city council because most of our activity is focused on the city centre. We have had some engagement collaboratively with the county council as well, but we would deal with Brendan McGrath's officials in the city council on a weekly basis on the various schemes. It is a tight working relationship.

With regard to the engagement level with businesses, we have had some engagement but the local authorities can answer that more clearly than us. They would have the first hand engagement in most cases.

The Senator asked if we have short-tem, medium-term and long-term ambitions to deliver the transport strategy for Galway. As was said by Deputy Ó Cuív, we believe that is the overall solution to the problem in Galway. In page 91, the last page, a programme is set out which divides the various measures into short term, medium term and long term. At the start of it we say that the bus and public transport system must be tackled very quickly. That is set down as the short-term measure. The ring road is included as a medium-term to long-term measure, but the bus priority and the traffic network through the city centre are down as key things to be started in the short term.

Regarding KPIs, we would build them out of this. I do not have certain KPIs to quote to the Senator now, but they are ones that would get developed as we would start to deliver on the various projects.

Senator O'Mahony asked how we would respond to Mr. Coll's proposals for responding to individual bottlenecks.

We are very familiar with how to optimise traffic flow. We do it all the time at various locations. We do not believe it is the answer for Galway, although it would help. While there is no doubt that certain things can be improved, it is often the case that when one improves one thing, it is at the expense of something else. For instance, to improve the movement through a junction, one may have to ban a left or right turn. There are things that can be done to improve junctions and the flow of traffic, but quite often one finds that one is just moving a problem down to another place and must chase it along. Fundamentally, one is dealing with a city with very narrow streets and too much traffic running down them as it is. While there are things that can be done to help, it is not our view that this is the long-term solution. What is in the transport strategy is the foundation to solve the issues. Certainly, there are beneficial things we would not ignore that could be done.

Deputy O’Keeffe asked if we had looked at traffic management and measures like this. We have. To build on the last point-----

Before Mr. Creegan goes on, I asked where this was going to be in five or ten years.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

Someone said funding is an issue. That is always the case. We are all waiting for the capital plan to come out later this week. If the funding were provided, we would like to follow the timeline we have set out on page 91 of our document. In five years' time, we would like to see the bus network changed in Galway and bus priority in place on as many of the routes there as possible. We would like to see the traffic system reorganised around an orbital route around the city centre. There are various other things set out there also. These things are not cheap and funding is therefore important. Without that funding, we simply will not get it delivered.

What indications of funding has the council got for Galway?

Ms Anne Graham

There is no indication at this time. We have to await the outcome of the national capital plan process. When we published our plans for BusConnects in Dublin, we wanted to continue and do a BusConnects programme for Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford. The detailed planning around bus infrastructure and services that follows on from the strategy would go into a BusConnects programme and we would set out the deliveries we want in terms of bus infrastructure for Galway.

Mr. Brendan McGrath

I am sure Mr. Kelly can elaborate on this but the cost of the Galway city ring road is of the order of €650 million. The Galway transport strategy is subject to a lot of further detailed work but the estimated cost to deliver it as drafted is somewhere in the ballpark of €250 million to €300 million. If the Oireachtas gives us €300 million, we can solve and implement what is in the strategy. The Galway transport strategy has a 20-year horizon with significant front-loading in the first ten years and a huge amount of work targeted for years one to five. I need a guarantee of money on a multiannual basis which will permit us to put the resources in place. The programme we are following with the NTA has been to line up the ducks on the various projects which make up the totality of the Galway transport strategy, organising and getting through the planning processes to have the fundamental heavy lifting done in so far as possible by the end of 2018. For example, the Galway city centre transport management plan, which is one aspect of the Galway transport strategy, probably requires between 25 and 30 individual projects rolled out to make it happen. Some are short term, some are medium term and some are long term. Some of them cannot be implemented until the Galway city ring road is in place. As Mr. Uinsinn Finn pointed out, the ring road is still needed even if the Galway transport strategy is implemented in full. It is an absolute must and a sine qua non.

The city centre transport management plan involves many difficult decisions. It is radical, innovative and requires new thinking. It will mean changing traffic flows at junctions, changing junctions, eliminating on-street parking and providing traffic links across the city prioritising bus, cycle and pedestrian traffic within the city core. It means approaching it in a fundamentally different way from the way things are approached now. The real challenge will come when we put a proposal on the table to change the traffic flow on a particular street to something fundamentally different, remove on-street car parking, change one-way systems and take traffic off some streets completely, giving them over completely to cyclists and pedestrians. There is a win-win if we succeed in implementing the Galway transport strategy as we will also succeed in fundamentally enhancing the public realm across Galway city. We will give the city back to its citizens and we will not be prioritising the car.

A number of members referred to the park and ride system. There are a number of parallel pieces here that are in progress and which can and will happen in tandem. The park and ride network is a fundamental element but I can only go out and buy land for park and ride facilities if funding guarantees are in place. The NTA can only give me that money if it has guarantees in turn. We need somewhere between €950 million and €1 billion to solve Galway's traffic problems. If I have that guarantee, I can, of course, have a dedicated head of traffic. The NTA has worked exceptionally closely with us, as has TII. The NTA has bolstered our resources, including by providing us with additional staff and, along with TII, dedicating staff within their own organisations to work on specific Galway projects. They are funding a range of consultancies across the city working on the different elements of the project. A great deal is happening. However, I guarantee the committee that as soon as we put the Galway city centre management plan into the public domain, initially by way of a non-statutory consultation and thereafter through the statutory consultation process and probably a Part X process, which possibly means it going into An Bord Pleanála, it will upset a lot of people, no more than with the Kirwan roundabout. People will not be able to continue to do things the way they are being done now. However, I can state categorically that doing nothing on traffic and transport in Galway is not an option. Waiting ad infinitum to solve it is not an option either.

To achieve Galway's potential and allow it to act as the gateway capital to the west of Ireland and as an economic and entrepreneurial leader, leveraging the value of the world-class medical technology cluster in the city, the university, GMIT, and the hospital, we have to stop the city being choked. People taking hours and hours to get out of work is not acceptable. People have no guarantee as to their journey time. One day a journey takes ten minutes whereas the next it takes an hour. We met Mr. Tony Neary and the Parkmore group yesterday and we are absolutely conscious of the frustration of his and the other companies in Parkmore. What is probably not recognised, however, is that the university and the hospital are equally large generators of traffic. In fact, they probably generate more traffic than the Parkmore area. The vast majority of journeys into Parkmore currently involve single-occupancy cars. Mr. Finn will correct me if I am wrong, but it is of the order to 80% to 83% of those journeys. We have to change the mindset. We have to bring about the modal shift.

Nothing in the Galway transport strategy rules out a light rail system for Galway down the road. At the moment, however, we can implement and deliver bus-based solutions if we have a guarantee of resources. For example, if I get €30 million, I can provide a bus lane on both sides of the Old Dublin Road, which links to Doughiska. That is what we are talking about. The Tuam Road bus corridor requires bold decisions but the only way it can work, fundamentally, probably requires us to eliminate the right turn into Ballybrit. People will not like me saying that. People do not want to hear it. I understand the concerns of business, but radical changes in thinking are required to deliver these solutions. We now have the strategy in place.

A hell of a lot of work went in. It is based on evidence and facts. The various organisations such as Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, the National Transport Authority, NTA, the city council and the county council have signed up to say this is the way forward and the solution. I am sure Mr. Kelly will come in on this. When the Galway city ring road is submitted to An Bord Pleanála, it is hoped in April, if we end up with a legal challenge à la Athenry, and it is open to legal challenge, our timelines at the moment are based on a reasonable period in which the board will deal with it, so if such a challenge were to take two, three or four years, the completion date for the city ring road would not be 2024 but beyond that.

We have fundamentally said to our colleagues in Parkmore that the ultimate solution to Parkmore is the city ring road. Dedicated access to the Parkmore area is provided through the city ring road, which we can outline if the committee wants. If the city ring road could be got through planning and there was not a court challenge, we have had a discussion with TII about bringing forward the Parkmore piece as enabling works to facilitate the area. It could be fast-tracked. The key piece with the city ring road is getting it through An Bord Pleanála and dealing with the courts system, should the need arise.

I do not want to confuse this with the general traffic issue with regard to funding for project managers. I think Mr. McGrath would have all of our backing with regard to getting extra funding for whatever is needed for traffic solutions. I want to ask about a project manager specifically for the Parkmore area. I agree that the bypass is needed and all of that. It is recognised that there are measures that would improve the situation and it needs to be moved on. There is a time lag in respect of achieving targets on time. Does Mr. McGrath need project manager assistance? There may be costs involved. If that is what needs to be discussed here, this is the moment to do it. What I am hearing from the multinationals is that there are solutions that are not being moved on fast enough.

The Deputy is referring to ownership of that specific problem and what is needed to get a dedicated solution.

I am asking who is going to lead that.

Mr. Brendan McGrath

We met Mr. Neary and his group yesterday. The interim or short-term proposals we identified in April were all delivered ahead of schedule. There is delay in respect of the current second lane, the 330 m of lane within the business park. We originally signalled that work would start on 2 January. It started on Monday last and will be completed by Easter. We hope we will complete it ahead of schedule. All of the interim works that we identified that we would do were completed ahead of schedule. I would never say "No" to additional resources, ever.

On the question of the planning and the growth in Galway that is predicted, how does the city council intend to deal with that in terms of transport policy and planning policy? In particular, does it intend to develop inner-city sites and how much land does the council actually own in the centre of Galway, if any, or in the city? It seems to me that this is going to get worse because the growth is going to be phenomenal, from what Mr. McGrath is saying.

Mr. Brendan McGrath

The city development plan has identified where buildings of height and scale can be accommodated. There are a number of key sites in Galway city. One is Ceannt Station site, which is currently out to expressions of interest, and I understand a proposal will be going to the board of Irish Rail shortly. There are a number of other sites like the Galway Harbour lands, and there is a significant portion of land on Eyre Square within private ownership where again there is provision in the city development plan. There is the Crown site. There are five very specific sites for regeneration within the city area where buildings of height and scale can be accommodated.

What number of people might be facilitated to live there?

Mr. Brendan McGrath

I will give an example of a two-acre site that has levered 330 or 340 residential units plus the capacity to accommodate 2,700 to about 3,500 jobs. That is one specific site. The key piece about the Galway transport strategy, GTS, is that it has a 20 year horizon and built into it is future-proofing. Ms Graham and Mr. Creegan can cover this further.

Ms Anne Graham

There is future-proofing for demand and, if the outcome of the national planning framework requires it, we would review it on that basis as well to see if any additional outcomes are required in the strategy.

Maybe I am making the point the wrong way. What I mean is, if the city is going to grow by 45,000 over the next 20 years or less, it seems to me that if the city does not go up, it will not be able to grow out.

Mr. Brendan McGrath

The city plan recognises that.

The other point is where the county council comes in. Is there any joined-up thinking to the effect that if the development of the city moves out into county areas, that might accommodate the growth better in terms of space and facilities needed and with all of the network that is in place?

Maybe Mr. Coll and Mr. Neary could come in on that.

Mr. Tony Neary

I will try to answer all the questions I was asked. Senator Ó Céidigh asked me about the personal impact of this. I have jotted down about 20 examples but will leave it at maybe two or three. About two years ago, an employee of ours got a phone call saying her son had been seriously injured at school and had to go for surgery. She sat in traffic for an hour and a half in Parkmore, missed the surgery and only got to see him an hour after that. She did not get to the event. I had another employee who got a phone call saying her father was dying and she had to go to visit him. Thankfully, she got there before he passed away. Those are the types of stories that happen every day.

In terms of the impact it has on employees, a couple of years ago we spent a lot of effort in hiring a pharmaceutical expert. She lived on the other side of Athlone and decided not to relocate. I was worried about our ability to retain her, so a few months after she was hired I met her to see how things were going. We talked mainly about what work was like, but at the end of it I asked her about the commute. Her line to me was, "by the time I get to Briarhill I am halfway home". For anyone who does not know Galway, Briarhill is less than a mile from Parkmore.

I could even tell my own personal stories. Every morning I drop my kids to Oranmore to school before I go to work. I travel from Oranmore to Parkmore, which is about three miles. About two weeks before Christmas there was a medtech board meeting in Limerick in the Radisson Hotel. I am a member of the medtech board of Ireland. After dropping the kids at Oranmore, I was in the Radisson Hotel in Limerick ten minutes before I would have got to Parkmore. Yesterday morning I left my house, which is just off the Coast Road, travelled to the roundabout at the Galway Clinic and went from there up to Parkmore, a total journey of two miles. I left at 6.20 a.m. and got to Parkmore at 7.25 a.m. That is an hour and five minutes for two miles. That is the impact of the situation.

Deputy O'Mahony asked what the solutions are. Our job is to make sure that we compete as the best in the world and we make sure we have experts in the various areas. I am not a traffic expert and am not here to provide the solutions. The people who are responsible need to do that. It is not my job to tell everybody how to manage traffic because I do not know. I am here to say that this has a very real impact in terms of both industry and people's lives. We should start thinking as the best in the world in this respect as well. That is what makes industry succeed and it is what is needed to make Galway and Ireland succeed as well from an overall infrastructure point of view. There is no secret to success for industry. Certainly Medtronic has no secret to success other than that we put a huge emphasis on recruiting the best talent and then developing it. To be able to ensure our people's continued success, we need to be sure we have an infrastructure that allows them to succeed as well.

The second part of the question was whether it has hampered expansion. Again, our only secret to success is in terms of our people. If people's experience in work is diminished hugely by their transport to and from work, then that does hamper development. I do not want to speculate about numbers or whether we would be bigger without this. What I will suggest is that, overall, the secret to success is getting the right people and making sure they have an environment where they are engaged to deliver results.

Deputy Ó Cuív asked the question about where people come from. He quoted the statistic that 46% come from County Galway. I believe that figure is accurate but I do not have the numbers with me. With regard to the Parkmore estate, Medtronic is so large we are a reflection of the entire community. Our people come from everywhere, including Galway city centre, the Connemara area, east, south and north Galway, and from neighbouring counties. We are reflective of the community we come from. That is where the people come from. They come from all around. I believe 46% coming from outside the city is a reasonably accurate figure.

Deputy Rabbitte asked how long it has taken for the new slip road to start construction. I have had many jobs in the medical device industry and I have worked in my current job for just over four years. There was plenty of discussion on traffic before I took over this job and I have been actively talking about traffic for four years at least. This is the first time we have had construction work begin to alleviate the traffic. There have been many other discussions about exit lanes. In terms of specific delays, we certainly had hoped it would have commenced a year ago or certainly many months ago. It has started now and that has to be welcomed. It will improve the situation.

If one looks at the world we live in, in Medtronic, of our 3,000 people, probably fewer than a couple of hundred are working on something that existed five years ago. In 2024, which is the at-best case for the ring road being built, only a tiny fraction of what we have will still exist then. We have to change constantly. Our ability to succeed is on different timelines from this. I find it frustrating that the only thing I have thought about consistently for four years is traffic.

I am not a traffic management expert but all I can say is that if one asks people working in Parkmore, they will say the best way to get in and out of Parkmore is to go there when the Galway Races are on.

I have covered most of Deputy Naughton's questions. I do not want to talk about traffic, I would love to have been invited here to talk about some other topic. That is why I feel so passionately about it. From an industry point of view, particularly a medtech industry point of view, we have made massive advances as a country - and Galway as an area - in transforming health care around the world. We should have the same ambition for our infrastructure to allow our people to succeed.

Does Mr. Neary feel there should be a project manager or somebody driving this? Does there need to be more leadership on the Parkmore area with regard to actions and targets and timeframes?

Mr. Tony Neary

In my world, accountability and having a project leader certainly works well in terms of delivering results. Specifically on this issue, it is important that those who are responsible determine exactly how it should be organised. My experience in industry certainly suggests it is important to have accountability and have clear leadership for specific projects.

Mr. McGrath made a point about 80% of cars being single user cars. I have no reason to doubt it. It is probably a fair statistic. I would not call it a perk of my job, but a reality of my job is that I travel all over the world and visit cities everywhere. How one commutes in cities depends on the infrastructure of the city. There are certain areas where one absolutely has to hire a car. I regularly visit Zurich and I would never consider getting a car there because there are much better modes of transport. People will use the infrastructure that is available to them, so telling people they cannot drive their cars is not the answer. If the infrastructure is there to encourage people not to drive their cars, then they will not drive them. That is my experience having travelled in many cities around the world. That is what works. I do not feel in a position to lecture people and tell them they cannot drive their own cars. If the infrastructure is there, people will use it, in my experience.

I will ask Mr. Coll to comment and then I will take Deputy Connolly, Deputy Grealish, Deputy Fitzmaurice and Deputy Canney, and I will ask the representatives of Galway County Council to respond. In that way, we will get everybody in. I am conscious of other demands on people. There are party meetings and things like that.

Mr. Brian Coll

I will give one or two examples. We talk about modal shifts and things being long-term. We heard Mr. Neary talk about metrics and accountability. We cannot improve what we cannot measure. We have no measurement of traffic in Ireland today and we do not know if things are easing, slow, bad or heavy. We need to get a metric in place. If we are talking about journey times on key routes, that would be a success because it would drive changing behaviour.

Let us look at modal shifts. The 1986 census showed that 46% of people travelled to work in their cars. In 2016, 65% travelled to work in their cars. We are now saying that we will miraculously reverse that trend over the next 20 years and shift everyone back again. I support the initiatives but the data do not show that. That is what I am talking about today. Another example is incentivising people to share cars. The Seamus Quirke Road in Galway is a 2 km stretch of road that cost us €15 million or more to build. It took nine years from when planning was granted. Currently its bus lane does not allow carpooling. There have been decisions made at Galway City Council and there was a vote not to open it to carpooling. Was the decision driven by opinion or data? We can only conclude it was driven by opinion because we do not have data.

The only way we could identify whether carpools will work on that lane is to baseline the data. What is the journey time from Threadneedle Road to Tuam Road? Currently the free-flow time on that route is nine minutes, driving legally at 6 o'clock in the morning. The evening traffic time is about 45 minutes, which is a 500% increase. It should be somebody's job to get it from 45 minutes to nine minutes. We may never get to nine minutes but perhaps we will reduce it to a 200% increase. One of the things we could do is baseline it. We know what it takes today and we can have much more real-time data. We could open it up for two weeks to carpooling because a lot of people drive that route. If 50% of people who drive that route decide to drive around to their friend's houses and pick those people up, there would be half the number of cars on the route. We could also continue the bus lane. There are seven buses an hour scheduled on that route. That is what we keep it open for. There are two lanes going the whole way out to Parkmore but we do not have bus lanes out there because the buses do not go across the bridges. That could be considered. We want to use the data, technology and tools to make data-driven decisions. That way we will know they are the right decisions.

To effect what Mr. Coll has spoken about, we need accountability for the decision. Is it the city council or the National Transport Authority, NTA, which would make the decision?

Mr. Brian Coll

The council has nothing to fear. It has made some very good interventions. An example is the junction at the top of Threadneedle Road. The council changed the light sequence there and eliminated right turns. It affects me negatively but people in Barna say it has free-flowed the route into town. We have no data to support that so people could be of the opinion that the council has done nothing. Data can support the council in making these decisions and show evidence of the positive initiatives and interventions it is making.

That is a short-term initiative.

Mr. Brian Coll


It would be over and done in a couple of weeks if it did not work.

Mr. Brian Coll

If it does not work, we would change back.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Teachta Connolly.

Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir Ó Céidigh agus leis an gcoiste as ucht an seisiún seo a eagrú. Tá sé tuillte. Rugadh agus tógadh i nGaillimh mé. Tá an-suim agam i gcúrsaí tráchta agus i réitigh inmharthana.

I have spent 17 years working at local authority level and know the ins and outs of the work. I will make a few observations and then I will ask a few questions. During my 17 years an outer bypass was built on a cul-de-sac. Whatever about one's view of an outer bypass or a ring road, my difficulty was that no solutions were put forward because all of the eggs went into one basket and therein built up a problem. Another problem was the management structure but that is not a reflection on management. During my first 13 years working on a local authority we had seven city managers, either acting or permanent. Such a structure does not lead to long-term solutions. When the outer bypass was put down a cul-de-sac the next effort was to get another road. The Arrow Road Construction Company was brought in to look at that road. Public transport was put on the road and not the other way around. In an ideal world I would have loved the company to have declared it had a major problem due to Galway being a fantastic medieval city, that it also had serious climate change responsibilities and seek to come up with solutions in the next few years.

I shall make a final observation. I spent almost two days attending an oral hearing on the Seamus Quirke Road in Galway and, subsequently, I was accused by a certain person of delaying the road. My efforts, and that of Councillor Colette Connolly, were to ensure that four roundabouts were not located on a road that spanned over 1 km. The exact distance has been mentioned.

Mr. Brian Coll

It was 2 km.

An extra two roundabouts and a flyover were due to be placed on a 2 km stretch of road. That was the type of engineering solution put forward. I spent my time making sure the flyover and two extra roundabouts were not erected. Ironically, the management has adopted a policy of removing roundabouts over the past number of years.

My questions will be on the national planning framework, which will be published next Friday. It is unfortunate that the framework will not be discussed in the Dáil. I have read the framework and noted terms like "sustainability" and "place-making". The framework has identified Galway city as one of five cities predicted to grow more than 50% of its present population. In addition, 50% of development must take place on sites in the inner city.

Light rail was ruled out as an option without proper analysis, in my opinion. Light rail was ruled out on the basis that the city was not going to grow that big and, therefore, there would not be the same demand for development on 50% of the city which will now, if we comply with the framework, lead to further population. Also, our climate change obligations have increased dramatically. Neither Mr. McGrath, Mr. Kelly nor Ms Graham have talked about our climate change obligations. They did not mention what has been done to future proof our roads and transport solutions in terms of climate change legislation.

In 2005, I had the privilege of being elected mayor of Galway. At that time all of the councillors unanimously voted to add park and ride facilities in the city's development plan and against the then management's advice who said it was unnecessary and premature. We included park and ride facilities in the development plan that covered east and west of the city. Time has elapsed and it is now 2018 yet the objectives were never complied with and people have allowed traffic congestion to build up. I appreciate that we all want more development in Galway but it must be sustainable. My specific questions have been asked already. Why was a park and ride scheme not rolled out? When will it be rolled out? What applications were made for funding to provide park and ride facilities on the east and west of the city since the initiative was first mooted in 2005?

I shall now discuss the master plan for the city in terms of sustainable development and transport. I am open to correction but I believe that Ceannt railway station is comprised of between 12 and 14 acres of prime land that is located in the middle of the city. I ask one of the witnesses to confirm how big the dock area is in acres. These are public lands and we also have private lands. Unfortunately, there is no master plan to develop that land in terms of transport.

Earlier the manager gave an example of a planning application that is pending. The private land was sold off by the docks and port company. The planning application is for office accommodation for 2,700 people and some accommodation for students who come from abroad. I mention this project not to criticise but to say that the plan that we will publish on Friday has sustainability written into it yet that is not happening on the ground.

What is happening with the park and ride option? The last time I checked there were 30 schools located in the city within a small radius. Just recently I have ceased having to drive my children to school and putting an idiotic car on the road in order to drive my children from the Claddagh area up to a scoil lán-Ghaeilge, a distance of less than a mile and a half. I had no choice but to undertake that drive as it was the only way to get my children to the school and similar situations are repeated all over Galway. We need a living and vibrant city and it is great that the city has 30 schools where students are taught in Irish and English. Is cathair dhátheangach í. We need to reduce school traffic. It has been repeatedly identified that peak traffic is a problem, which is substantially contributed to by schools. What is the solution?

I have had the privilege of travelling abroad and know that transport mobility plans for each big industry was a major factor. I ask Mr. Neary to comment.

I thank all of the witnesses for their contributions. I shall now refer to the contribution made by Mr. Coll. I was frightened by one of his comments when he said: "a recent initiative in Boston showed an 18% reduction in traffic congestion using these new techniques. Coincidentally, this is estimated to be the same approximate reduction in overall travel time for the Galway transport network following the completion of the N6 outer bypass." He went on to say that is the estimated change that will happen as a result of 16.5 km being built at a cost of over €30 million per kilometre. That solution will lead to huge trouble and will not reduce traffic congestion.

My colleague, Deputy Ó Cuív, has mentioned Oranmore, Athenry and a train service. Has the frequency of trains in the area increased? Can we use what already exists as a commuter service?

Deputy Grealish has kindly given his time to Deputy Fitzmaurice.

I thank the witnesses for their presentations. My first two questions are for Ms Graham from the National Transport Authority. It is fine to have a national planning framework that spans the next 20 years. Are there immediate plans to provide a light rail service around Galway? Are there plans to bolster the bus service?

I thank Mr. McGrath and Mr. Kelly for their presentations. I understand they consulted each other about getting a road built to Parkmore. Let us call a spade a spade here after the debacle that took place in Athenry where people objected to a planning application. Realistically, we are more than likely going to encounter people again that will want to object. In my opinion, the outer ring road is probably ten years away, which is not good for Galway and will not tackle the current traffic crisis. I can travel to Dublin quicker than travel the shorter distance of 43 miles to the offices of Galway County Council, which is a frightening reality. Where are we with solving the lane issue mentioned by Mr. Neary? There are other plans afoot. Is another road that has been estimated to cost €5 million being considered?

In terms of a park and ride scheme, we have the airport site. I wonder, no more than other Deputies, what is happening with the park and ride schemes.

The hospital has been mentioned. Is there joined-up thinking between the National Transport Authority, both councils and the HSE on plans, if any, for the hospital to be moved to Merlin Park? Deputy Naughton has raised the issue on several occasions.

What can we do quickly to deal with this? I know that businesspeople, especially those in large companies in Galway, cannot say it, but the traffic chaos is preventing companies from investing and coming to the west. While there is no magic bullet to solve the problem in Galway city overnight, can efforts be made to deal with quick fixes?

It is predicted that the population of Galway will grow by 45,000 people in the next 20 years, which means that 18,000 housing units will be needed. While I hope we will be able to have high rise developments around the CIE depot in the city, where else will we fit that number of units? If a city is in chaos, should we not study the existing problems and solve them, rather than engaging in another fire-fighting exercise later?

I thank Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh for organising the meeting. It is crucially important that we have this debate. Galway is suffering on two fronts. It is losing business and shoppers. People are no longer going into the city to do their shopping. With the opening of the new motorway, they are going further afield. No doubt, Galway Bay FM will cover this meeting, featuring soundbites from it, to which those stuck in traffic this evening in Galway will listen. All they want to know are the short-term solutions and timeframes in which the works will be done.

I work in Parkmore and receive calls from people concerning traffic congestion around it. Yesterday morning, for example, it took 37 minutes to get from the Ballintemple junction to the traffic lights before the business park. The traffic is so bad I have to leave home at 7 a.m. to get into my office for 8 a.m.. Why does it take so long to get from planning to the actual works commencing? Will Mr. Brendan McGrath and Mr. Uinsinn Finn give us a firm timeframe for when the work will be completed and people will be able to get in and out of Parkmore at a reasonable time?

We will not go back over the horror stories about it taking three hours to get half a mile down the road. We all know that a happy worker is a productive worker. A worker who gets stuck in traffic and spends the first 15 minutes in work giving out about how long his or her commute took is not a happy one. I know Mr. Tony Neary who has a multinational business to run and Mr. Brian Coll do not want to be here discussing this issue.

On some occasions at the traffic lights at Briarhill I have seen one road clear with no traffic, but it still has a green light. I was recently stuck at the Carnmore junction going into Galway on a red light. The traffic lights for the road in front with no traffic had a green light, but I had to wait. I timed it and it took one minute and ten seconds for it to change. The volume of traffic which could have moved in that time would have been phenomenal. I know that Mr. Michael Timmins worked on it at the time with Mr. Fran McEvoy. The traffic lights at Carnmore crossroads are smart traffic lights and controlled by pads on the road. At Carnmore Cross, coming from Monivea Road, if there is no traffic coming from town, the light will not go green but will switch to another. It can control the traffic. It would be a huge help if smart traffic lights could be installed at Briarhill. There is a state-of-the-art traffic control room in Galway City Council, but, unfortunately, it is not manned. If there are backlogs in particular areas, why can the lights not be synchronised to move traffic?

Is funding a hold-up in having projects approved for Galway City Council? Is the council actually waiting for approval from the National Transport Authority, Transport Infrastructure Ireland or the Department to move projects forward? If it is the case, what projects are being held up by requiring approval or funding?

Members said all of the eggs were in the one basket, namely, the ring road. I could be dead and buried before it is built. It was said by some delegates that parts of the Galway city outer ring road project would solve the problem at Parkmore. I have looked at the ring road proposal and there are sections of back roads. Why can they not be built now? Why can we not go ahead with those sections and get traffic onto the Tuam Road, instead of waiting for the whole picture of the Galway inner ring road to be presented? Why cannot it be done in stages? Can Galway County Council examine developing various stages of it now? If permission for the ring road is refused, will all of the proposed new roads to service Parkmore and other parts of the city be thrown out of the pram with the toys? We need to look at building the road in stages.

I have tabled parliamentary questions about park and ride facilities, as well as raising the issue in the Dáil. I have discussed with the city manager and Mr. Uinsinn Finn why the Galway Airport site is not used for this facility. The NTA claimed that it was too far out. When it was tried before, nobody used it. Why did nobody use it? It was because the park and ride bus service was also stuck in traffic. Who will use such a facility if the bus service is going to be stuck in traffic? The answer is nobody. The only way a park and ride facilitiy will work is if buses actually pass through every 15 minutes.

There was a proposal to locate the park and ride facility in Doughiska on residentially zoned land. We are crying out for homes to be built for people in Galway, but there is a proposal to locate a park and ride facility in Doughiska which is practically in the city and one mile from Parkmore. That is a crazy proposal. We should look at situating it at Galway Airport, particularly when one considers the number of people coming from the east side of the city. There is Junction 19 on the M6 and the Rathmorrissy intersection. In two turns, one is at Galway Airport where there are 125 acres of land. A proper bus corridor from the site could solve many problems at Parkmore. Will Ms Anne Graham explain why the Galway Airport site has been dismissed? I want a feasibility study to be carried out. One does not locate a park and ride facility in the middle of a city.

What discussions has Galway County Council had with IDA Ireland on providing infrastructure in the county? I tabled a parliamentary question yesterday on the available lands in the IDA Ireland portfolio in Galway. Tuam Business Park has 1.47 ha of land, Ballinasloe Business and Technology Park has 8.8 ha of land; Tuam Science and Technology Park has 9.92 ha of land; Parkmore Business and Technology Park has 26.75 ha of land; Oranmore Science and Technology Park has 26.78 ha of land; while in Athenry there is 92.43 ha of land available. Why is IDA Ireland not locating industries at these locations? Why do we have to bring everybody into the city? There are motorways between Tuam, Ballinasloe, Gort and Shannon, while there is a huge intersection at Rathmorrissy which services Oranmore and Athenry. In the United States and elsewhere in Europe there is forward planning. Why is Galway suffering? This issue dates back many moons to the delegates’ predecessors when there was no forward planning. Parkmore was developed 35 years ago, but there is the same road in and out of the business park. Why were roads not planned to come out onto the Tuam Road or the Monivea Road? We are suffering owing to lack of forward planning.

We should pick IDA Ireland sites at Oranmore and Athenry and provide the roads infrastructure. Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh should ask Mr. Martin Shanahan to address the committee on what IDA Ireland is doing to solve the traffic problems in Galway. A number of units were built at Parkmore by public private partnerships for leasing to IDA Ireland which then aimed to bring in industry, but it could not get people to come there. Therefore, why is it still building there? We have lost industry to Limerick. Over 600 jobs were supposed to come to Galway but did not on account of the traffic problems. I received a telephone call from the managing director of a factory in Galway. The top person had flown in from the United States, but he was stuck in traffic and late for a meeting. He had to get a Garda escort to get him there on time. We have to work on the issue of forward planning. I ask Mr. Finn and Mr. McGrath to tell people who will be listening to this debate in their cars this evening when there will be progress at Parkmore and in other parts of the city. It is frustrating for the and Galway is suffering. This will continue to be the case until we see progress.

We should grasp a few things from this meeting. Mr. Brian Coll made suggestions on easy things that could be done to help traffic flow in Galway. I call on the National Transport Authority to collaborate with him to see if we can make Galway a pilot project in introducing Waze immediately. It would be something positive to come from this discussion.

Everybody has a gripe, but we should not talk ourselves out of attracting industry. IDA Ireland is a victim of its own success, but it has a responsibility when building parks. I remember building at Parkmore when I worked in the private sector in construction. We built a lot of the factories, including some stuff for Medtronic, but nobody had the vision to assess capacity and provide for infrastructure-led development to maximise it. IDA Ireland needs to look at how it designs parks and the width of carriageways has to change. On the other side of the road the carriageways are all single-lane. Local authorities also have to future-proof the development of IDA Ireland business parks. We have proved that we can get the numbers and create the best products in the world and need to design our infrastructure to match it.

Little things can make a big difference. I believe a commuter rail service would make a difference to Galway. The clearest artery from Tuam and Claremorris into Eyre Square is the railway line, but there is no rail service in those places. There are 13 acres of land in Tuam which could be developed into a transport hub, with park and ride facilities and private bus services to take people into Galway every day. Those who car-pool should also be allowed to use bus lanes. We should try it for a month or six weeks to see how it would changes people's habits. We would not have to spend millions in doing so.

Galway City Council and Galway County Council own Galway Airport. A park and ride facility could be provided, but bus lanes are needed on the ring road around the city. It baffles me why buses do not travel over the Quincentennial bridge to create a loop. It would not cost money to do it, although a line might need to be painted on the road. There is also space in the area from the airport to Parkmore, up to GMIT, across to the city centre, out to the hospital and the university and back out over the bridge. There has been talk of the provision of a bus lane from Claregalway to the city, but there are issues with the last leg of the route and some businesses are not happy with it. Bus operators do not need to have the bus lane right into the city, but if there was one as far as Leader's shop, they could come back out. It works in Claregalway village, where there is no bus lane through the village. These are small things that would not cost money, but they would take away the frustrating delays. We need to change the mindset where we do nothing until we have it all right.

I was in China last year for St. Patrick's Day. I was in a train station where 14 platforms had been built, even though only one was in operation. They had been built for the future. While I am not saying we should build 14 in Galway, we should build on the basis of the projections up to 2040. A project manager is required to manage traffic at Parkmore in order that there would be no distraction and it could be dealt with successfully. Everybody wants to do something and to do it right, but there are some quick fixes. The most important for me is getting Waze into Galway as a pilot project in order that we can become the leader in it in this country.

Mr. Kevin Kelly

As many issues are within the competence of Galway City council, I will deal with a couple of broader issues.

The environment in which we develop proposals is complex. We spoke about the predecessor of the Galway city ring road, the Galway city outer bypass, and the difficulties it ran into. The project could have been built in 2011, but we are a long way from it now. On a smaller scale, we spoke about the project that got under way this week to provide a left-hand turning lane out of Parkmore. A previous version, granted permission by Galway County Council, was taken to An Bord Pleanála where it was refused. It is not the case that nothing is being done.

Why was it rejected by An Bord Pleanála?

Mr. Kevin Kelly

It stated that it was only being refused on traffic safety grounds, although there was a left-hand turn in, left-hand turn out scenario. There are standards for every development, as well as land ownership and environmental issues.

It takes time to get those projects through and the outcome is uncertain.

In respect of issues of rail to some of the other towns, there are good examples of collaboration with Irish Rail. For example, there is the development of the Garraun rail station in conjunction with Galway County Council with regard to the parking area required for it. There are a number of locations in the county with rail stations, including villages like Ardrahan, Craughwell and Athenry. Looking to the future, there are deficiencies with respect to wastewater treatment facilities at all those locations. Despite the fact that the rail services could take some pressure from the city, they will be unable to do so without the availability of services.

With the ring road, the approach has been to try to develop an overall solution both in terms of the road and public transport elements. If a piece was taken out, it would become a separate project and all the processes would have to be gone through separately. At the end, one would probably be accused of project-splitting.

I do not agree with that.

Mr. Kevin Kelly

It is my opinion on how it could be challenged in due course. The bottom line is we are at a point where we are very close to submitting a full project that would deal with all those issues. If we secured approval for that, elements of the project could be brought ahead and delivered more quickly in advance.

As for IDA Ireland lands, there have been initiatives in some locations, such as an advanced facility that was recently approved for Ballinasloe. We have engaged on an ongoing basis with IDA Ireland and it is aware of the availability of lands. There are lands that have seen the benefit of planning permission that have not come forward for development. IDA Ireland has been trying to secure development of those lands and I met representatives of various enterprises with IDA Ireland in that regard over a period. From the county's perspective, we would dearly love to see some of those lands developed, available, zoned and serviced etc.

The point was raised about the overall accommodation of population growth. When we tease through the detail of the national planning framework, there will be a piece about how much development will be in the city and within the city and metropolitan area. It is quite clear from recent decisions on strategic housing developments that there is a clear indication that the metropolitan area must deliver higher densities in the commuter belt of Barna, Moycullen etc. In advance of the required infrastructure that we have spent the afternoon speaking about, it would be a real challenge to have additional higher densities at those locations without supporting infrastructure.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

There were many questions that interact with us. We did an assessment of light rail and it is included in the transport strategy. Deputy Connolly has a different view but we tried to assess the evidence and formulated our conclusions from that. With respect to climate change obligations, everything in the strategy is focused on assisting us in meeting climate change obligations. We are putting in a really efficient public transport system that will bring more users to that system and that can only be beneficial from a climate change perspective. Similarly, with cycling and walking, we are putting in decent networks. From a sustainability perspective, a mode shift is fundamental to tackling climate change.

Others will be able to answer the Deputy's question as to why park-and-ride was not rolled out in the past. It has been mentioned by several people that for park-and-ride to work successfully with a bus system there must be bus lanes and bus priority; it simply will not work otherwise. Nobody will get out of a car and get into a bus just to be stuck in the same traffic. We need bus infrastructure, including bus lanes and priority through the city centre, to be in place before we can successfully introduce park-and-ride. We can put a site in tomorrow but it would not be successful because there is no priority through the city.

My question was about the progress made in that respect.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

Designs have started with the city council on the bus priority with some of the routes. Possible park-and-ride sites have been looked at but more needs to be done. Later this year both we and the city council will be in a much clearer position.

Is the airport site still being looked at?

Mr. Hugh Creegan

We did a park-and-ride there approximately four years ago.

Yes but there was no bus lane. The witness said there must be a bus lane.

Allow the witness answer the question.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

It was unsuccessful then. I am not saying it might not be a little better now. We looked around the Coolagh roundabout on that side of the city. There was a big attraction to putting a site off that roundabout if that could be achieved. It would connect straight away to the city bus service we are putting in under that strategy. That would mean people could hop on a bus that hopefully would be coming every ten minutes into Parkmore Estate. More importantly, one could hop on a bus going the other direction through the city centre to the university, hospital and so on. There were many attractions to that site as part of the overall package. I am not saying we cannot look at the city airport again but that is why we thought the other site was better.

A question was asked about school transport. With the bus system proposed in that network, we set out how many schools suddenly come within walking distance of that network. At present, only approximately half the schools are within a walkable distance of a bus route. Under the revised system, 93% of the secondary schools would be within ten minutes, or much less in most cases, of a bus route. That gives the tremendous opportunity to at least explore the chance of secondary school kids being able to use bus transport to get to school. That is in addition to the cycling network it is proposed to develop. There has been a reasonable degree of consideration in that regard. Those are the main points.

Mr. Uinsinn Finn

A couple of other questions were raised. The park-and-ride issue was raised by a number of members. Working with the National Transport Authority, we are very keen to develop such sites in Galway and they are very much in the Galway transport strategy. They are linked to the national climate change policy as well. Location is vital to park-and-ride sites. Many of us here are familiar with Galway and within a very small edge of the city, between the Oranmore coast road, the old N6 - now the R446, the M6 motorway, the Monivea Road and the Tuam Road, there is a corridor of approximately 2 km or 3 km and approximately 50% of the traffic coming to the city uses that corridor. There are approximately 80,000 vehicles per day using the national roads in and out, with approximately 40,000 of those vehicle movements coming through that area. It is a key priority for a park-and-ride site in that area, as it would serve the main commuter traffic in and out of the city.

The next element important for the location of park-and-ride sites is the perceived edge of congestion. If a person comes into congestion and drives for ten or 15 minutes, the driver is more than likely to continue the journey. If the point is too far out, the driver will not pull in but go on past it. It is very important to have the location at the perceived edge of congestion. Pricing and parking management is also very important in getting people to use park-and-ride facilities. As people in Parkmore have free parking, it is very unlikely they will use a site where there may be an element of pricing. If it is to be provided free of charge, there must be a grant allocation to run the service. They are expensive to run in terms of infrastructure to be provided. The land is provided initially before the site is constructed and then bus priority is allocated to it.

There is an infrastructural cost to that and then there is the ongoing operating cost as well. Where it does very work very well is in terms of what we would like to see, and that is why it is very important in the Galway transport strategy, GTS. What we are doing in the city centre, in a project that is currently at planning stage, is based on the city centre traffic management plan. There is parking in the city centre and one pays from €5 to €12 to €18 for day parking. What we would love to see is that the people who are parking in the city centre might park at the park-and-ride site and get a bus service into the city that would cut 15 to 20 minutes off their journey time on a cost-neutral basis from their perspective, in that they would be paying for the park and ride on the edge of the city and getting the public transport service into the city. The 409 service that serves Galway is extremely successful because of the priority it has coming in the Dublin Road. We think the park-and-ride system would really work well serving the hospitals and the big employment centres within the city centre in the future.

That ties in very much as well with the modal shift, in that we must be conscious of the people who come from the county and as some members said, are reliant on the car. They will then have the opportunity to change over into the modal shift. When we talk about park and ride, it is not about getting people out of their car onto a bus, it is about getting out of one's car and perhaps onto a bike or walking as well. In the GTS we have walking and cycling routes because we perceive a shift where people are starting to move over into using their bikes for certain elements of their journey. That could involve having bike lockers at the park-and-ride sites or for people to carry a bike in their vehicle.

Parkmore has been raised on a number of occasions. There are more than 6,000 employees in Parkmore and more than 5,000 of them are using single-occupancy vehicles. The Galway Races is used as an example of how traffic is managed. Those of us who went to the races 20 years ago were aware of huge traffic congestion around and one could ask why that has changed now. There is very minimal traffic congestion connected with the races currently and that is down to the modal shift. It is an ideal model. I will not quote figures in case I get them wrong. A significant number of people now go to the races by bus. There are double-decker buses lined up in Eyre Square and various other locations to bus them out. A lot of people also walk to the races. There is also high occupancy in cars that do travel to the races. Three, four and five passengers are squeezed in. That is what we would like to see in terms of the overall context of how one can move people into more sustainable transport, going forward.

I will recap on some of the projects that have been delivered in Galway that we can perhaps forget about fairly quickly. What is very important for Galway city at the moment is the existing N6 corridor across the city. In recent years a lot of junction improvements have been carried out, including the removal of roundabouts and signalising the junctions, which are linked to the urban traffic control, UTC, centre in city hall. Deputy Grealish mentioned the Carnmore junction earlier. Those are all fibre linked and monitored systems. With the traffic modelling and counting we have done we are getting between 15% and 30% more traffic through at each junction since they were upgraded. The key priority for the upgrading of junctions was not just to get more traffic through them, pedestrian safety has been another factor. Safe pedestrian crossing facilities have been provided at the junctions and at the same time traffic volumes have been increased.

In terms of serving Parkmore and the broader area, it is not that long ago when we did not have the M6 motorway linking Athlone to Galway. Consequently, in the example given of a person leaving Parkmore who was half way home at Briarhill, if that person needed to go through Craughwell, Loughrea, Ballinasloe and all the towns along the way, they would certainly not have been half way home. It is not long since the M6 opened. The M17 and M18 motorways are now open as well. I think that the example being given was prior to the last 12 months but a lot of improvements have been delivered in Parkmore. We were getting continuous complaints about it taking an hour and a half to get out of Parkmore but I think Mr. Neary would agree with me that there are very few occasions now when there are any significant delays such as was the case previously. I do not want to put a number on it but apart from one or two bad days, the traffic currently is being managed. We cannot rest in that regard because it is important to keep moving and to further reduce delays, as well as to look at the situation in terms of the modal shift. It is not just about providing increased capacity into Parkmore for the single-occupancy cars but also for buses and cyclists.

When is it expected that the works will be completed in Parkmore? What is the timeframe for it? I know there are extra lanes, bus lanes, left-turning lanes and an extra slip lane coming in from the Monivea Road to bypass the bottleneck. People want to hear about the completion date.

Mr. Uinsinn Finn

It was during this mid-term break last year when we started the first phase of the current programme of works, which has NTA funding. That provided two lanes on the Parkmore Road on the approach to the Monivea junction. It also reconfigured the Briarhill junction to provide two lanes going left. The reason for that was based on the traffic modelling we had done as part of the work. We saw that 80% of the traffic coming down Parkmore towards that direction was going left towards the motorway. Two additional lanes were added with changes to the light sequencing and that has had a significant benefit in terms of people coming out of Parkmore.

Two other elements of work were delivered but I will not focus on them. The next phase that is going on at present, the 1D works, is the left-turn lane coming out of the Parkmore West Estate. Going back to the modelling that was done, we had picked up that about 39% of the people coming out were going left towards the Tuam Road and consequently the left-turn lane, which is 330 m long, will provide additional capacity for people coming out of Parkmore West who are going left to avoid being in the left-turning queue and that will certainly help them. That work is ongoing at present and is due to be completed before the end of the Easter holidays.

The next element of work for which we have a commitment is the signalisation of the Tuam Road and Parkmore junction in order that the 40% of people who are turning left going down towards the Tuam Road will have a signalised junction to help them get out from the perspectives of traffic flow and safety. We are hoping for other elements to be added in 2018 but as we do not have the budget allocations yet, I cannot give any confirmation on that. We are, however, seeking to deliver other elements of improvements in the current programme in 2018. We ultimately are going into what we call the more medium-term measures, which are projects that will require land, possibly by CPO, that will need to go through the planning process as well. Again, as my colleagues in the NTA outlined, consultants have been appointed who are working on an overall strategy and that will steer us in terms of funding going forward in the next two to five years.

Mr. Tony Neary

I will start with Deputy Connolly's question about the transport mobility plan. The first assurance I will give is that from an industry point of view and certainly from Medtronic's point of view, we recognise we have a responsibility and we fully intend to meet all our responsibilities.

The Parkmore traffic action group has been active for a number of years. I sit on it myself and I always attend meetings, where possible, or send a delegate. I think that is also the case for most other industries there, in that the most senior person in Parkmore is the person who is the representative on the group.

On initiatives such as a cycling village, in Medtronic we established a team of active cyclists to design a cycling village that would meet the needs of cyclists and we constructed and built that. Members are more than welcome to come and see it at some stage. In response to requests we provided drying facilities, shower facilities, secure locking, subsidised cycling gear and active cycling days where we provide repair for bicycles. The response to that has been very positive.

As for car pooling, while we cannot control the road infrastructure, we could control our car parking space. All the parking spaces adjacent to each building, which have prime access to the road network, have been dedicated to car pooling. Consequently, anyone who wants to car pool can get a space in the best car parking locations we have.

The land for the new slip road has been given by both Medtronic and Merit Medical. We have an active forum within Medtronic where people can make suggestions about transport mechanisms to and from work. We recognise that we are part of the solution. I assure the committee that we will play an active role and I feel I can speak for every other industry based in Parkmore in that regard as well.

Deputy Grealish asked a question about new office space being built. I will not get into speculation about the usage of that but I can confirm it is being built right now. The size is roughly 300 office spaces. I believe it is due to come on stream in the summer.

I wish to respond to Deputy Canney's comments.

While I was not asked a direct question I would like to follow up by saying we need an overall strategic plan but small things can make a difference. As Mr. Finn mentioned the improvements last year have made a difference. When we say there were additional lanes it was movement of lanes. We moved road markings to allow additional access out but that made a difference. We need a long-term vision but we also need to do our day-to-day job and deliver small things every day.

I thank the witnesses for their comprehensive answers about the park and ride. Did they say that design has started for the park and ride at the Coolagh roundabout? What other park and ride sites have been identified? My understanding is that funding cannot be applied for if the plans are not in place. The witnesses can correct me if I am wrong.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

No site has been chosen. That is a site we were interested in. It has many merits. There are issues as there are with every site considered. No final decision has been made. The city council will form a view first and, if we are in agreement, as I imagine we will be, whatever the outcome is, if we have the funding available we will be able to move it forward through construction.

Does Mr. Creegan mean that sites must be identified before funding can be applied for? I want to know the sequence of events to progress these measures.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

We are funding Galway City Council and, more important, working with it to develop bus infrastructure proposals and park and ride proposals. As soon as this is developed to the point where we are all comfortable that in terms of its detail it is the right scheme it is moved to the next stage and it is a question of whether we have the funding available to put into the construction. We hope we have but we will not know until the future funding comes.

I thank Mr. Creegan, that answers my question. The proposals need to come forward to identify these park and ride sites, east, west, north or south, wherever the NTA deems strategic. It has the expertise. I welcome the fact that the Coolagh location has been identified or progressed. If the NTA feels it is the right location and will link up with the integrated public transport I would not speak out against it but I have an issue with the slow pace of identifying these sites. Funding may be an issue but if the proposals do not come forward we cannot help the NTA get that funding.

Can I get an answer about the commuter traffic on the trains?

Can two suggestions I made be taken on board, one, the Waze for Galway city and, two, opening up the bus lane? The bus lane from Claregalway was opened for people who are carpooling. We need to incentivise people to leave their cars at home. A stick and carrot approach might help. I would like something to come out of this meeting. As somebody said at the very start the time for talking is over. That is one action that could be taken.

Deputy Ó Cuív and I asked about the possible provision for commuters in Oranmore and Athenry.

Ms Anne Graham

It is always based on demand for services. Rail services are costly to provide. We would consider it on the basis of demand and where we think demand is growing. We will continue to review the demand for rail services with Iarnród Éireann and if the fleet is available we will put it in place.

Has that been done in the context of the problems in Galway, the potential for Oranmore and Athenry?

Ms Anne Graham

We have outlined in the strategy that we will consider that area.

It has not been considered.

Ms Anne Graham

There are many aspects of the strategy to be delivered. Our focus initially is on buses but alongside that, if we are in a position to, we put in additional rail services. It does have an impact on the inter-city services too and that would have to be considered.

Mr. Kevin Kelly

As I understand it, that requires the dualling of the track at one section, which we have advocated for several years. That is essential for any extension of the commuter service.

I will ask Senator Ó Céidigh to wrap up as he proposed this meeting.

I sincerely thank the witnesses for coming in. Our purpose here is to challenge yet support in every way we can. We appreciate the efforts being made. In particular I thank my colleagues. Their contributions and their detailed knowledge of the transport challenges facing Galway blew me away. There is such a level of knowledge, expertise, commitment and passion that we are not going to give up until such time as we see tangible verifiable results and I hope I speak on behalf of everybody here. I thank all my colleagues for their contributions, particularly Senator O'Mahony who worked hard with me on this from the very beginning.

Will the city and county managers and Mr. Creegan give us a commitment that they will investigate the Waze and work with Mr. Coll on that?

Mr. Brendan McGrath

I met Mr. Coll and he asked would I sit down and meet him and I said yes. I will give it.

He asked me will I meet him and sit down for a coffee and I said yes. I am asking will the witnesses commit to considering the Waze system on a pilot basis.

Mr. Brendan McGrath

First, I need to learn more about it. My first introduction to it was this. I am willing to meet him, to talk to him and to have a discussion. We will do that fairly quickly.

I appreciate that and thank the witness. I would like if possible to have a follow-up meeting on this before the end of the year. Every Deputy and Senator from the Galway area attended this meeting. That shows the need for this. I would like if, through the Chair's good offices or my office, we could get a report or feedback now on the follow-up from this meeting, on what the Chairman aims to achieve in the next 12 months, where the accountability is, how much will it cost and how we will measure it. I would like that all my colleagues get a copy of that to form part of our discussion and deliberation in October or later, when we are back in session.

We will make a summary of the points made here and circulate them to everybody. If members reflect further on them they can send those ideas to us and we can have a meeting to deliberate on them and on the strategic planning framework and the-----

We might even go so far as to have that meeting before the end of the year in Galway. That would show significant commitment.


We will go there by bus. I thank the witnesses for coming in. I appreciate their giving of their time, experience and professionalism. It has been a very useful meeting.

The joint committee adjourned at 4.40 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 21 February 2018.