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CITY TRIBUNE

Transport Minister commits to light rail study for Galway

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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

Councillors back bid to ban city centre parking in Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have unanimously agreed to ask Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to limit parking to residents only in the city centre.

Pedestrians in the city are being treated like second-class citizens, according to the Mayor, who said cars continued to get the priority on Galway’s streets.

At a meeting of the City Council this week, Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) said the city had come to a standstill in car traffic, and pedestrians and cyclists were suffering the consequences.

“At junctions, why am I a second-class citizen in my own city as a pedestrian? It rains in Galway for 300 days of the year, but I am a second-class citizen when priority is given to motorists.

“It’s always the pedestrian that waits,” she said, hitting out at the length it took to get a green light to cross at pedestrian crossings.

One way to reduce the number of cars in the city centre would be to limit parking to residents only in the city centre, said the Mayor.

In a motion she proposed, seconded by Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind), councillors unanimously agreed to write to the Minister for Transport to demand he pass the necessary legislation to enable the Council to do this.

The Mayor said residents were “sick, sore and tired” of people parking where they wanted when they visited the city and said despite a desire to introduce this measure going back almost 20 years, the Council was hamstrung by national legislation that prevented them from proceeding.

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

Planners approve homes for ‘cuckoo fund’ investor

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The green light has been given for the construction of 345 apartments at the Crown Square site in Mervue – the majority of which will be put on the rental market and operated by a ‘cuckoo fund’ for a minimum of fifteen years.

Crown Square Developments, which is owned by developer Padraic Rhatigan, has secured permission from An Bord Pleanála for the ‘Build to Rent’ development, with four blocks ranging ranging from four to nine storeys in height.

There will also be a neighbourhood facility with a gym, a primary care medical centre with pharmacy, a ‘working from home’ lounge, six shops, a games room and a creche.

There will be 240 two-bed apartments, 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds, all of which will be specifically for the rental market and not available to purchase.

A breakdown of the apartments shows there will be 240 two-beds; 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds.

To meet social housing requirements, the developer plans to transfer 35 of the apartments (20 two-bed, 10 one-bed and 5 three-bed) to Galway City Council.

A total of 138 car-parking spaces have been allocated on the lower basement levels of Crown Square for residents, along with shared access to another 109 spaces and another 13 for use by a ‘car club’. There will be 796 secure bicycle parking spaces to serve the apartments.

The Board has ordered that the apartments can only be used as long-term rentals, and none can be used for short-term lettings.

Under ‘Build to Rent’ guidelines, the development must be owned and operated by an institutional entity for a minimum period of 15 years and “where no individual residential units shall be sold separately for that period”. The 15-year period starts from the date of occupation of the first residential unit.

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

Councillors divided over vote on Salthill Prom cycleway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to install a temporary two-way cycle lane along Salthill Promenade hangs in the balance, with city councillors split ahead of a vote next week.

On Monday night, the 18 city councillors will discuss Mayor Colette Connolly’s motion that the lane be installed on the coastal side of the road from Blackrock to a point opposite Galway Business School.

A poll of the councillors carried out by the Galway City Tribune yesterday found nine in favour of the proposal, with one indicating they will abstain. A simple majority is required and if there is a 9-9 split, the Mayor holds a ‘casting’ vote, effectively a second vote.

There has been a flurry of lobbying by cycling campaigners urging councillors to vote in favour, as well as some complaints from residents worried it will again impinge on their parking as visitors to Salthill seek somewhere to park up while they swim or walk along the most utilised resource the city has.

During lockdown, Gardaí removed parking on the Prom to deter people from gathering in a public space. This resulted in motorists blocking driveways and entering private estates, leading one estate off Threadneedle Road to hire a private clamping company.

Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) believes there are a maximum of 250 spaces that would be lost to the project on one side of the road as currently proposed, including seven disabled spaces, which could be reassigned close by.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read extensive coverage of the issue and to see how each councillor intends to vote, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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