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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway coach station parking row rumbles on

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Efforts to return a number of private coach operators to the city’s only dedicated coach station continue as a dispute over payment for its use rumbles on.

Due to the dispute, a number of operators – including Citylink and GoBus – are collecting and dropping off their passengers at the roadside, creating what one local councillor has described as ‘traffic chaos’.

The City Council confrimed this week that it continues to fine coach operators for parking to the front of Galway Coach Station at Fairgreen Road – up to 100 buses per day are illegally parking at the station’s front door.

A number of tour operators have also withdrawn from the station and are stopping at alternative locations, as first reported by the Galway City Tribune in 2020.

The dispute centres on the fees demanded by the station’s operators – bus operators are understood to want a pay-as-you-go system whereas the station management is insisting that because its bays are booked up as part of the bus companies’ licence agreements with the National Transport Authority (NTA), they must pay for all the slots they’ve earmarked.

Galway Coach Station Manager, Oisín O’Brien told the Galway City Tribune that the station would not be viable if operators only had to pay for what they used and said once the NTA had issued licences on the basis that the station was the stopping point for a certain number of timetabled routes, they could not make those slots available to anyone else.

“We need €500,000 a year for the station to wash its own face,” Mr O’Brien said of their running costs.

In a letter to local councillors, seen by the Tribune, Mr O’Brien said Galway Coach Station had not refused any of the operators involved use of the facility.

“In fact, these operators have been issued with contracts for same, however, up to this point they have chosen not to sign the contracts and instead have made a conscious decision to operate on the street, with no action taken against them even though they are parking illegally on the street, and therefore, not in compliance with the terms of their licences,” he wrote.

Mr O’Brien told this newspaper that he was of the opinion that NTA was failing to ensure operators were complying with the terms of their licence agreements.

“The way it works is a bus provider makes an application to the NTA, for example to run 500 buses [annually] between Dublin and Galway. The NTA asks where they will pick up and drop off and the bus operators have two options – public or private property.

“The City Council provides permission to use public stops or if they come to us and say ‘we need 500 slots’, we confirm we can provide those spots to the NTA and they issue the licence with that information included,” said Mr O’Brien.

“The first two lines of the licences say the operator must comply with the terms of the licence and if they don’t, they are committing an offence.

“The NTA has the responsibility to enforce that. They are the licencing and regulatory authority but they’ve done nothing,” he continued.

Galway County Council owns the site on which the station is built and its operated by Head Space Group on a 999-year lease.

The fees for using it are set by the Council and according to Mr O’Brien, they had been set at €8 per slot in 2005, before being increased to €10 following a review in 2020.

The conditions of the lease stipulate that the station must operate 24/7, incurring costs that only payment for all slots allocated will cover, he added.

Mr O’Brien refused to be drawn on if the continued operation of the station would become untenable without the return of the operators, but said Head Space was ‘100%’ committed to its continued operation.

“We are committed fully to Galway Coach Station unless councillors or the NTA decide they no longer want a coach station and that would release us from our obligation,” he said, adding that he remained hopeful a solution could be found.

Chair of the Council’s Transport Strategic Policy Committee, Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said every effort needed to be made to resolve the dispute as the current arrangement of buses parking haphazardly on the street was causing an obstruction and posed a threat to road users.

“I would like to see this issue resolved – the city needs a coach station and its not good enough for the city to be held to ransom because of a dispute like this,” he said.

A statement from Galway City Council said the local authority was aware of the dispute “between the private entities of the coach station and some of the bus operators. We have engaged with the key stakeholders and this is ongoing”.

“We are aware of the parking issues. Fines have been issued and continue to be issued,” stated the Council.

Citylink and GoBus were contacted for comment.

In a post on social media this week, GoBus responded to a query related to use of the coach station and said: “We look forward to a day when it will be resolved”.

CITY TRIBUNE

‘Positive response’ to plan for new Wolfe Tone walkway

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From the Galway City Tribune – The submissions process in relation to the new pedestrian walkway to be put in place on the south side of Wolfe Tone Bridge has now closed.

The project – estimated to cost in the region of €1 million – is expected to start later this year once the Part 8 planning process – where the councillors will ultimately decide on whether to proceed – has been completed.

It will involve the provision of a 50-metre steel cantilever (no centre supports) walkway on the southern aspect of Wolfe Tone Bridge as well as a widening of the existing adjoining footpath.

A feature of the proposal will be the provision of a new signalised ‘rainbow pride’ pedestrian crossing on the eastern approach to the bridge.

According to Galway City Council Senior Engineer, Uinsinn Finn, the new pedestrian bridge crossing will be a major positive development in terms of facilitating the increasing numbers of people walking from the city centre towards the Claddagh/West area of the city.

“There has been a very positive response to the proposal for the provision of this extra pedestrian facility which will complement a similar walkway on the northern side of the bridge.

“The new signalised rainbow pride crossing on the eastern side of the bridge will also make it safer and improve access for pedestrians using this route,” said Mr Finn.

He added that the proposal would probably be coming up for approval at the September meeting of the City Council with plans for the new structure to begin shortly after.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway Greenway plan moves up a gear

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The design phase of the Galway to Oughterard Greenway will begin in 2023, Galway County Council has confirmed.

Several potential routes are now ‘on the table’ – with the information website for the project now ‘gone live’ until mid-July – to enable all interested parties to look at the options and make submissions.

David Joyce, Engineer with Aecom Consultants, said that the preferred route for the greenway was likely to emerge in the first quarter of 2023 followed by the design phase later in the year.

He told Conamara area councillors at a meeting that a cycle track would be part of the greenway – three metres wide for most of the route widening to five metres closer to the city.

Initially, the potential routes would have 200 metre corridors to ‘capture everything’, said Mr Joyce, but that width would be reduced in the final preferred option.

In response to queries from a number of councillors, he said that at least two to three of the options did not envisage using the current N59 roadway for the greenway.

“There will be extensive face-to-face consultations with the public before any decision on the final preferred route,” said Mr Joyce.

County Councillor Noel Thomas (FF) said that in his view it would be better if the greenway did not use the existing roads network while Cllr Eileen Mannion (FG) asked about the necessity for 200-metre-wide corridor options.

Cllr Tom Welby (Ind.) said that the Clifden to Oughterard section of the greenway would be using the old railway line route which only involved a corridor width of about 50 metres.

In the city, Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) said the project would serve as a route for cyclists and also as a tourist attraction.

“The delivery of the Conamara to Galway Greenway will bring so many benefits to Galway City and County. This week, this project moved a step closer and I hope there is progressive engagement with all stakeholders in the coming months.

“URDF (Urban Regeneration and Development Fund) funding was received last year for the development of a bridge along the pillars of the old Clifden Railway line at Woodquay. This is the proposed landing point for the Greenway coming into Galway city.

“This project can serve as both an active travel route for cyclists and also a major tourist attraction for visitors and I just hope it can progress and be delivered in the coming years,” said Cllr Hoare.

A total of €11 million in URDF funding was allocated last year for a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the River Corrib – along the buttresses for the old Clifden railway line, which is regarded as forming an integral part of the city’s cycle network.

(Image: an architect’s impression of how that cycle and walkway over the Corrib would look).

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CITY TRIBUNE

Public order offences on the rise in Galway

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From the Galway City Tribune – Galway is headed in the wrong direction unless anti-social behaviour and public order problems are sorted, a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee has been told.

Former mayor Mike Crowe said: “There are too many people begging; there are too many people sleeping rough; and there are too many people drinking on the corner of the streets, organised drinking.”

The Fianna Fáil councillor said he was not surprised that the official Garda crime report had confirmed that public order offences detected in the first five months of this year were up by 26%.

That represented 46 additional cases compared with last year, bringing the total number of public order offences in the first five months of 2022 in Galway City to 225.

“It needs to be addressed; I think Galway is on a precipice,” he said.

Cllr Crowe said that the City Council, through various housing charities, had provided ample resources to ensure that homeless people were accommodated.

“There is no need to be sleeping rough,” he said. He added there was no need for tents to be erected along the city’s main shopping thoroughfare by rough sleepers.

Another former mayor, Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) agreed and suggested that some people who were sleeping rough were not homeless as all, and they were involved in ‘organised begging’. He claimed that many of those sleeping rough ‘were all gone off the streets by 3am and 4am’ when revellers have gone home. “They’re making a living at it [begging]”, he said.

Chair of the JPC, Cllr Níall McNelis (Lab) said if anyone had evidence that begging was being carried out by an organised gang then they needed to supply that information to Gardaí.

Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley agreed and said that evidence not rumour was needed in order to bring prosecutions and secure convictions.

Cllr Crowe and Cllr Fahy said the Garda presence at Eyre Square, 24-hours every day, was having a positive impact, and Chief Supt Curley said public order offences have reduced in the city centre since that additional resource was deployed to the Square.

Cllr Fahy, however, said that “public drinking and public urination” remained a problem.

Cllr Crowe welcomed a commitment from Superintendent Damien Flanagan, who was now responsible for policing Galway City, that a “permanent presence of Gardaí is in place in Eyre Square” and would remain there.

Supt Flanagan clarified that that meant a Garda or Gardaí would be in Eyre Square “at all times”.

He also said he was liaising with Galway City Council on some design issues in Eyre Square that could be changed to deter anti-social behaviour and discourage people from congregating there for drinking.

Chief Supt Curley said that he would prefer to use the Gardaí elsewhere but he acknowledged that a 24/7 Garda presence in Eyre Square was working, and would be deemed a success if it saved even one victim from suffering a serious assault.

There were 17 offences of ‘begging’ detected in the first five months of the year, down 29%.

Cllr Niall Murphy (Green) said begging in itself was “not a crime”, it was “a failure of society”.

The offence relates to people who are causing an obstruction or nuisance while begging; begging beside an ATM is also an offence.

The Galway City Tribune is in shops every Friday, or to buy online HERE

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