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CITY TRIBUNE

Transport Minister commits to light rail study for Galway

Enda Cunningham

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Transport Minister Éamon Ryan has given a commitment in the Dáil that a new study will be commissioned to examine the feasibility of introducing a light rail system in Galway City.

In fact, he said the proposed Cross-City Link bus route – linking the western and eastern suburbs through the city centre – was an “obvious” choice for a light rail route.

However, Minister Ryan said that it would be a “difficult decision” requiring the backing of city councillors and local TDs.

He said next year would be the “appropriate time” to revisit the Galway Transport Strategy as it will mark the sixth anniversary of its publication.

The matter was raised in the Dáil last week by Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly during a debate on sustainable transport for the city and county.

She said that alongside Park and Ride facilities for the east and west sides of the city, she wanted to see light rail introduced.

Light rail technology has seen significant technological advances over the past decade, and advocates believe any such system for Galway would be very different to Dublin’s Luas, with lighter, eco-friendly and lower-cost rail cars.

Deputy Connolly told the Dáil: “My preference is for light rail but that is just my preference, as it was among the 24,000 people who signed the petition to ask for a feasibility study. It is all tied in together. The city is destined to grow, as the Minister knows, by an additional 40% under the National Development Plan.”

The Transport Minister gave an assurance that a feasibility study would be carried out and this could happen next year.

“I agree about the merits of a feasibility study for light rail in Galway. We will commission and deliver that. It is best done within the review of the Galway transport strategy which is due next year.

“It would also be done then at a time when, all going well, we will know whether we have got the planning permission through for the cross-link [bus] route,” said the Transport Minister.

He said the planned Cross-City Link bus route – which runs from University Road, over Salmon Weir Bridge, Francis Street and Eglinton Street to Eyre Square, Forster Street, College Road to the Dublin Road – would be the “obvious” one to be upgraded to light rail.

The Cross-City Link bus proposal is expected to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála in the second quarter of this year and would take between 12-18 months to construct.

“That would be one obvious route which we could upgrade to the light rail options that a number of people in Galway are now presenting as having real potential,” Minister Ryan said.

“To deliver that requires first and foremost political commitment from the local authority representatives and the Dáil representatives in Galway because it will be a difficult decision.

“It will require the reallocation of space and preference being given to public transport. This would transform the city for the better, but it is never easy.

“It is never easy to change from the current model to a new one but that is the key thing.

“Getting local political buy-in, support and backing for the bus corridor options and for the active travel routes is what we need in Galway more than anything else.

“I think that next year is an appropriate time to look again at the Galway Transport Strategy and review it, given that 2022 will mark its sixth anniversary,” he said.

Deputy Connolly told the Galway City Tribune this week that any data which fed into the transport strategy is now outdated given the country’s climate change commitments and modal changes due to Covid-19.

“Light rail is part of a sustainable solution to Galway’s problems. The city is going to increase in population by 50%, and we should be planning for that,” she said.

In a subsequent written reply to Deputy Connolly, Minister Ryan said: “I agree with the Deputy that given the time that has elapsed since publication of the Galway Transport Strategy, there is a need to review it and take stock of developments since its publication.

“I understand that such a review will commence next year and will allow for consideration again of the issue of light rail but importantly that consideration will take place within the overall framework of the strategy itself,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Gluas committee – which is campaigning for a Very Light Rail (VLR) system for Galway – will hold a webinar on VLR on Tuesday, April 20 at 7pm.

A number of speakers who are experts in the field of VLR will take part. They are from companies involved in such technology and from cities approximately the same size as Galway with similar demographics. A Question and Answer session will complete the free hour-long event.

You can register on Eventbrite.ie.

CITY TRIBUNE

Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island

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Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.

A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.

Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.

It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.

Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.

Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.

It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.

In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”

It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.

“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.

“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”

Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.

The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Detractors’ could hold up €10m Spanish Arch flood defence scheme

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan has warned that the Office of Public Works and Galway City Council “may end up in the High Court” if they attempt to expedite plans for the €10 million flood defence scheme for the Spanish Arch and Docks areas.

Speaking at an Oireachtas Finance Committee meeting last week, the Minister for the Office of Public Works admitted his frustration at the length of time such projects take.

But he said that if he and the OPW attempted to “shave off time” in moving the project forwards, they would have to be mindful of “detractors” making accusations later and there being a legal challenge.

He was responding to Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell, who said it was likely to be 2028 before the flood prevention works would be completed.

“It was revealed in November that it will be at least eight years before long-awaited flood defences are completed in the Spanish Arch and Docks areas – with the City Council estimating that it will be towards the end of 2028 before works conclude,” said Deputy Farrell.

Minister O’Donovan said: “The OPW is committed. There is money available. We do not have a worry about allocating money for capital spending. I say to Deputy Farrell, and to Galway City Council, that, if we can shave off time in advancing projects, we will gladly do so, but we have to be mindful of the fact that if our detractors make accusations later, we may end up in the High Court. We do not want that.”

(Photo: Flood Street in February 2014. Spanish Arch, Fishmarket Square and the Docks areas were flooded in storm weather during high tide. PHOTO BY JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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