Tourists to Galway and the west last year spent almost a billion euro in the region, and new transport links can help ensure that sort of spend is maintained, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said this week.
In 2007, more than 2.8 million tourists visited Ireland’s western region, spending €817 million here. More than 193,000 tourists visited Kylemore Abbey and Gardens, with almost 132,000 travelling to Dun Aonghasa. Galway Atlantaquaria in Salthill received 87,000 visitors, with the Leenane Cultural Centre and Connemara National Park both receiving more than 70,000 visitors each.
“On top of these attractions, major events – like the Galway Arts Festival – continue to entice people from all over the world to visit Galway,” the Minister said.
“These tourists make a very valuable contribution to the economy in Galway, and across the western region. The Transport 21 package of investment is supporting the tourism industry by making it easier, safer, and more pleasant to travel around Ireland. The new N4/N6 Dublin/Galway road is on time and on budget for completion in 2010. The full length of this major inter-urban (MIU ) route will be 194 kilometres, and already 82 kilometres is open to traffic.
He said that the N6 Athlone/Ballinasloe and the N6 Ballinasloe/Galway road schemes are under construction.
“The N6 Loughrea Bypass has already been delivered, removing an infamous traffic jam black spot from the journey between the major cities of Dublin and Galway. Those travelling between the two cities will also now benefit from the recently opened €280 million N6 Kilbeggan/Athlone dual carriageway.”
Transport 21, the largest investment package ever in Ireland’s transport infrastructure, is making a significant contribution to the ongoing development of Ireland’s tourism industry. The plan – which is investing €34 billion in transport infrastructure over the period 2006 to 2015 – is transforming transport links, giving visitors to Ireland greater options when it comes to travelling between our cities and accessing the rural countryside.
He also said that rail services in the region are also benefitting very significantly from Transport 21 investment.
Work is now under way on phase one of the development of the Western Rail Corridor, from Ennis, County Clare, to Athenry, Co Galway. Trackwork began in October 2007, and the first train services on the line are scheduled to commence in 2009 upon completion of the €106.5 million redevelopment of the Ennis/Athenry line.
Intercity services to Galway are also being improved. A total of 1.6million passenger journeys were made on the Galway line in 2007, an increase of nine per cent on 2006. New Intercity Railcars, which boast the most modern standards of comfort, reliability, and environmental performance, have been introduced on the Galway line.
The new Intercity Railcars have also been designed with the needs of the mobility impaired fully incorporated. Dedicated wheelchair spaces are provided, and wheelchair accessible toilets are in place. Ensuring the needs of all customers are catered for, toilets also feature baby-changing facilities.
“Transport 21 is also funding new, state-of-the-art, vehicles for Bus Éireann, benefiting residents, commuters and tourists alike. Under Transport 21, Bus Éireann introduced 15 new vehicles into the Galway fleet in 2007, with funding allowing for 239 new vehicles to be acquired by Bus Éireann nationally.
“In addition, Transport 21 has allocated funding of €6.3 million to Galway Airport as part of a package of measures to improve Ireland’s regional airports.
“Tourism makes a major contribution to Ireland’s economy. I believe that, by substantially improving our road, rail, bus and regional airport links, Transport 21 will have a positive impact on our tourism industry by making it easier, safer, and more pleasant to travel around Ireland. The Transport 21 package of investment is already delivering tangible benefits to the transport infrastructure in Galway, and many more improvements are on the way,” he concluded.