Opening Statement to Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism & Sport on Traffic Management and Congestion in Galway

14 February 2018

Introductory Statement from Anne Graham, Chief Executive Officer, National Transport Authority

Chairperson and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to attend. I understand that the Committee wishes to focus upon traffic management and congestion in Galway.  To assist me in dealing with your subsequent questions I am joined by Hugh Creegan, Deputy CEO with the Authority.

Before dealing with the specific areas of focus, I would like to set the context by providing a brief overview of the remit of the Authority in this provision and regulation of public transport services.

Remit of the Authority

The remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA) is to regulate and develop the provision of integrated public transport services (bus, rail, light rail and taxi) by public and private operators in the State, to secure the development and implementation of an integrated accessible transport system within the Greater Dublin Area, and to contribute to the effective integration of transport and land use planning across the State. In addition to its statutory responsibilities, the Authority has various arrangements with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to discharge functions on its behalf.

The Authority is limited in terms of producing a statutory transport strategy to the Greater Dublin Area. Any transport strategy produced by the NTA in any other area is on a non-statutory basis.

Current Transport Trends in Galway city

The table presented below shows the number of journeys to work and education recorded by the 2016 census for Census Day, and compares that data to the 2011 census data on which the Galway Transport Strategy was based:

Census Walking Cycling Bus Rail Car
2016 12,085 2,987 5,035 120 27,914
2011 11,314 2,331 4,002 167 27,461

As can be seen from this table there has been an increase in the number of people walking and cycling and using bus in the five years. This is a very positive trend in the right direction and reflects how walkable the city is in terms of its size and the investment by the NTA, Bus Éireann and City Direct in improving the bus services in the city.

However, there remain significant challenges to movement within the city which prompted the NTA to develop a transport strategy with Galway City & County Councils.

Galway Transport Strategy

To safeguard the future development and growth of Galway City and its role as the economic centre of the west of Ireland, it was considered important to develop a long-term transportation strategy that would complement and support the Galway City Development Plan. The Galway Transport Strategy (GTS) was developed on a joint basis by the NTA and Galway City & County Councils as an integrated transport plan, the primary purpose of which was to coordinate and consolidate the planning and implementation of transport proposals in Galway.

The key issues that were identified as part of the study were:

  • An over-reliance on private car travel;
  • Significant peak-hour congestion and journey time unreliability;
  • Significant dispersed traffic movements to, through and around the city centre area;
  • Constraints to national, regional and local transport movements, all of which funnel through Galway City, including all movement to and from Connemara;
  • Limited bridge crossings on the River Corrib;
  • Key junctions operating over capacity;
  • An inappropriate mix of transport modes within the city centre due to limited road space;
  • A public transport service and network in need of enhanced capacity and additional priority;
  • A limited, discontinuous cycle network;
  • Restricted footpaths, poor accessibility for disabled / mobility impaired; and,
  • Associated safety issues due to poor walking and cycling infrastructure.

The GTS has identified key transport infrastructure projects and service requirements which will address the existing transportation issues and provides a framework for their phased implementation, subject to funding.

These infrastructural projects include:

  • An enhanced city traffic network;
  • An improved bus network with a minimum frequency of 15mins or better at peak time and improved residential and commercial access in a 10 minute walk;
  • Improved bus priority measures;
  • New Park & Ride services; and
  • Improved walking and cycling routes.

The strategy was subject to extensive public consultation, and a full environmental assessment. The proposals were developed and assessed using the NTA’s Transport Model for the region, and a comprehensive demand analysis was undertaken utilising key Census data to derive a new Core Bus Network.

The GTS has been adopted into the development plans of the two local authorities and was a key factor in Galway City winning the European Green Leaf designation for 2017.

One of the issues that were considered in the development of the strategy was whether a light rail solution (Luas) would be required for any of the transport corridors in the city. Based on a full transport modelling assessment, it was concluded that the provision of a light rail system would not be the appropriate transport solution for Galway City at this time. The maximum passenger corridor demand was forecast at roughly 1,100 passengers per hour per direction, which would equate to roughly a third of the operating capacity for a light rail service running at an appropriate frequency, making it a highly inefficient solution. The implementation timeline and capital costs which would be approximately 10 times that of a bus operated system, also weigh heavily against the introduction of Luas in Galway City at this time.

The economic importance of the wider Parkmore employment area is fully recognised by the NTA and is addressed at a strategic level in the Galway Transport Strategy. Three of the core bus services identified in the strategy will run to Parkmore, which will also eventually be served by the proposed N6 Galway City Ring Road. The NTA has recently appointed a design team to undertake a more focussed local transportation study of Parkmore. This study will provide a detailed breakdown of the infrastructural projects required to facilitate the short term, medium term and long term implementation of the strategy in Parkmore.  It is anticipated that this study will allow for an accelerated delivery of new transportation options to Parkmore, providing relief for existing employees and facilitating future growth.

The implementation of the proposals in the Galway Transport Strategy will be challenging.  However, I believe that their delivery will protect and enhance the future development of the city as an economic and cultural centre in the west of Ireland.

We await the announcements in the National Development Plan to ascertain what funding is available to deliver on the recommendations in the strategy. I look forward to working with Galway City Council, Galway County Council and public transport operators to deliver this ambitious strategy for Galway.