Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Ceisteanna (47)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

47. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when park and ride facilities will be rolled out in Galway; the status of the work programme for the implementation of the Galway transport strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22095/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Ceist ar Transport)

Cén uair a bheidh córas pairceáil agus taisteal le feiceáil ar shráideanna na Gaillimhe, thoir agus thiar? When will park and ride be rolled out in Galway and what is the status of the work programme for the implementation of the Galway transport policy given the serious challenges facing us in climate change and the traffic chaos on the streets of Galway?

As the Deputy refers to, a transport strategy for Galway city was prepared by the NTA, in partnership with Galway City Council and Galway County Council, in 2016. Development of the strategy was informed by a wide-ranging public consultation with interested stakeholders and the public.

The strategy sets out an overall framework for the development of transport infrastructure and services in Galway city and its environs over a 20-year period.

I very much welcome the type of evidence-based approach in transport planning in the major cities and, in particular, the co-operation between the NTA and the relevant local authorities in developing these strategies.

The Galway transport strategy supports opportunities that will reduce congestion and car dependency through increased capacity of reliable and sustainable public transport and the promotion and facilitation of cycling and walking, which, in turn, promotes the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The strategy considered that bus-based public transport represents the most appropriate system for Galway over the period of the strategy. It concluded that a high-quality bus-based public transport service will cater for the forecasted passenger demand and will provide significant flexibility in network options and the ability to integrate with other modes.

Project Ireland 2040 provides an indicative allocation of €200 million to support the development of a BusConnects programme in Galway. This will deliver a rationalised network of five high-performing cross-city routes. All routes will serve major city centre attractions as well as linking all major destinations across the city. Galway BusConnects will comprise next generation bus lanes, enhanced services, cashless fares and account-based ticketing. A network of park and ride sites, serviced by the more efficient bus network, will also be put in place.

A work programme to guide the implementation of the Galway transport strategy is currently under development by the local authority. I am informed by the NTA that it had been hoped to publish this programme last month; however, the programme is still under development and will now be published later in the year.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

I am as anxious as the Deputy that implementation of the Galway transport strategy begins in earnest but I recognise the need to ensure that implementation is conducted in a planned and co-ordinated manner. I am advised by the NTA that the implementation of the proposed infrastructure development required by the strategy will be approximately five years.

In advance of that, Galway can benefit from the increased funding I am making available to support improved PSO bus services and fleets, as well as the increases I have secured to improve cycling and walking infrastructure.

In spite of the Minister's best efforts and the reply he read out, I am far from happy. There is a traffic crisis in Galway. Less than two weeks ago, the House declared a climate emergency. I specifically asked when park and ride facilities would be rolled out in Galway. I asked that in the context of the council unanimously including park and ride facilities in the city development plan in 2005 when I was mayor. We are now in 2019. When will they be rolled out? On the status of the implementation plan, is the Minister stating that there is not yet an implementation plan? I may have misinterpreted his comments.

As I stated, I am as anxious as the Deputy that implementation of the Galway transport strategy begin in earnest, but I recognise the need to ensure that implementation is conducted in a planned and co-ordinated manner. I am advised by the NTA that the implementation of the proposed infrastructure development required by the strategy will take approximately five years. Of course, in advance of that Galway can benefit from the increased funding I am making available to support improved PSO bus services and fleets, as well as the increases I have secured to improve cycling and walking infrastructure. There has been a delay in finalising the plan, as the Deputy is aware. In cities outside Dublin, the NTA must work with and rely on councils to a far greater extent than in Dublin, where it has stronger statutory powers, which are sometimes criticised by Dublin councillors. Infrastructure required for Galway BusConnects can be delivered within five years, subject to planning.

I am unsure whether there is wilful blindness or wilful incompetence. I do not wish to be negative. The city is thriving on one level, but it is choked with traffic. We included in the city development plan in 2005 that park and ride was necessary. We led as elected members and the people of Galway led us. Last year, I collected 22,500 signatures in favour of light rail, which is an argument for another day. I mention it because during the course of that nine-week campaign, people queued up to ask us, please, to do something for the traffic in Galway in a sustainable manner and in light of our climate change commitments. One of the simplest and most obvious parts of the solution is to put park and ride facilities in place. I ask the Minister to leave aside his script for a moment and say whether, if he were in my position, he would be happy that, in 2019, it will take another five years to put in place something for which we submitted a plan in 2005 having proactively recognised the problem?

I fully understand the frustration at the growing traffic problems and the difficulties experienced by passengers in Galway-----

It is a problem nationwide.

-----and various other areas nationwide where the population is growing and there is prosperity. Galway is no exception in that regard. The Galway transport strategy recognises that the provision of park and ride sites on multiple approaches to the city is important. It made a commitment in that regard. It is proposed to base park and ride facilities on the city-wide high frequency public transport network, thereby maximising the range of destinations that can be reached. Potential corridors for park and ride have been identified as part of the bus network development, and these facilities will be developed within the existing road corridor and boundary where possible. Where that is not possible, greenfield sites will be explored. Any site investigations will take potential environmental impacts into account.