Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (11)

Catherine Connolly


11. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that park and ride facility for the east and west side of Galway city has been an objective of the Galway city development plan since February 2005; the engagement he has had with the city council to progress the roll-out of park and ride in the city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25893/20]

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Oral answers (4 contributions) (Question to Transport)

Park and ride has been an objective in the Galway city development plan since 2005 but it has never been rolled out. Has that been brought to the Minister's attention and can he make a statement on the matter?

I am as frustrated as anyone with the congestion that grips Galway and that has the potential to choke the city’s social, cultural and economic development. I am acutely aware of the need to implement improvements urgently to the city’s transport network, centred on the hierarchy of pedestrian, cyclist and public transport. While the Deputy will know that I am long aware of these issues, they were reinforced yet again in meetings I have had with various representative and interest groups from the city and region since assuming office. I am determined that my Department will provide the right type of policy framework and the overall levels of funding required to enable delivery on the ground by local authorities of the infrastructure set out in their various transport strategies.

This summer’s July stimulus, I hope, provided a signal as regards our intentions. I emphasised the need for the rapid roll-out of active travel measures and allocated significant funding for that very purpose. During the summer, I met with Galway City Council and urged it to take advantage of this funding and roll out new and improved active travel infrastructure to support local communities and businesses as they learn to live with Covid. July’s stimulus also contained additional money for new and improved bus services, including in Galway, and I know the NTA is continuing to develop and plan those services with the operators.

While the local authority is at the heart of delivering change in Galway, I know central Government needs to support it in ways over and above pure funding and needs to consider issues such as technical support. In this regard, this year, the NTA established a park and ride development office, which is working with local authorities to deliver park and ride in all the cities, and that office is also working with Galway City Council.

I am also aware that the county council, in co-operation with Iarnród Éireann, is also exploring options to further improve facilities at Oranmore station. From conversations with other Deputies from the Galway area, including the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, and Deputy Grealish, I understand that park-and-ride facilities were introduced on the site of Galway Airport. This was close to the Parkmore Industrial Estate and the route travelled by some coming in from the east of the city. I am interested in hearing from the Deputy as to why that project did not progress after its operation on a trial basis. These are practical quick wins we should be looking at as potential ways of delivering facilities.

I appreciate the Minister's frustration, engagement and determination but 15 years have passed and park-and-ride facilities have not been operated in Galway. There was a failed attempt by the chamber of commerce to run a facility at the former airport site when the airport fell. This project was not led by the city council. Indeed, its planners advised against it. Park-and-ride facilities have never been rolled out except at Christmas, when they are very successful.

Some 15 years later, what are we going to do about this? It is clear the council will not implement such facilities. I am told it has made progress in identifying sites but this measure is not going ahead because it is utterly dependent on the ring road, which may or may not go ahead. Once again, we are putting all our eggs in one basket and failing to deal with traffic congestion in Galway. Park-and-ride facilities are just one aspect of this. I agree with the Minister that we also need an integrated school transport service and so on but this will not happen because of the doublespeak regarding a road which will sort out all our problems and a failure to take action.

Again, I fully agree with Deputy Connolly. I had a series of meeting with representatives of the various cities across the country this summer and I was disappointed and felt that Galway was missing out most on the opportunities afforded by investing in active travel, public transport and sustainable solutions. I absolutely agree that, if the city authorities believe waiting for a ring road to solve their problems will make matters better, they are making a fundamental mistake. Real urgency is required in the delivery of public transport solutions, greenways and active travel measures. The funding is not the problem. There seems to be a problem in getting resources together locally to deliver projects that have, by and large, been agreed. I will continue to press for that and to push for those solutions because they are the way forward. They will allow Galway to thrive.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.