Bus growth in Galway to slow down due to lack of priority lanes

Only 10% of Galway City’s roads are dedicated bus lanes, which is causing a “serious deterioration” in Bus Éireann’s ability to fulfil its timetables.

Regional Manager Brian Connolly said that the company had become a victim of its own success – it was now increasingly unable to meet a growing demand, as the necessary infrastructure is not being provided.

“There are constant improvements coming into the network but, without priority measures, we are in danger of just having an increased level of resources caught up in the same traffic,” he said.

The Galway City bus network received a major overhaul in 2012 which, the figures show, has been a significant success story.

“Passenger journeys are up 50% which, in public transport terms, is a massive improvement in such a short space of time. Here in Galway City, we have the most efficient, punctual and effective city network in the country. So much so, that Dublin Bus were asked by the NTA (National Transport Authority) to come down and talk to us, to see what we were doing right.”

Mr Connolly says that the Doughiska route, which goes from Eyre Square to Parkmore, is the most successful one in the city – for a very obvious reason.

“One of the critical elements of this service is the level of bus priority on that route, particularly on the Dublin Road – we have bus lanes in and out bound, to the extent that it covers 25% of that route.

“Also, on the 405 Rahoon to Eyre Square and out to Ballybane, the Seamus Quirke Road has significant priority measures. That’s where we are seeing significant growth, so it just goes to demonstrate that when the priority measures are put in place, it improves the reliability, and punctuality. People are more or less guaranteed journey times, and that increases usage, which has been the recipe for success.”

However, the growth is being stifled by the lack of infrastructure, he added.

“The Bus Éireann network in Galway has only 10% bus lanes throughout the whole city, the other side of that is that on 90% of the network we are sharing the same road space as all of the other traffic. As congestion has worsened over the past six to 12 months, we are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve our timetables.

“We have to give over a little bit of road space to public transport, that’s not going to be agreeable to everyone involved, but if we want to ensure that the city moves more freely, and more people are using public transport, those are the sacrifices that have to be made.”

He said that the one-way traffic flow along Lough Atalia/College Road, which was in operation while works on lowering the road under the railway bridge were taking place, had proved to be “one of most significant improvements” for all bus operators coming in and out of the city.

“It was something that worked very well from our point of view, and is something that is being considered in the transport strategy, and we would be encouraging to continue with.”

In the medium term, Bus Éireann hopes that the ‘Luas on wheels’ or BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) will become a reality for the city, while it grows to a position where light rail will be a viable option.

The ‘bendy buses’ are a regular feature in European cities, and they are something that Bus Éireann has been looking at for over 10 years.

“Each stop should become a mini station. The vehicle itself can resemble a Luas, except it’s on tyres.

“If people still want to go for a light rail solution after that, at least you have proven the concept at a fraction of the cost to invest in light rail.

“You know it works, and then you can make a judgement whether or not to make that investment.”