A light rail system for Galway is an "utterly stupid conception" that will involve ripping up city streets in order to construct, creating months of potential traffic delays to an already congested system, and with the added danger of costs over-running significantly.
This is the view of Independent city councillor Noel Larkin, who has publicly come out against the renewed calls for a light rail/LUAS style system for Galway, saying he will "never support" any proposals for such infrastructure. Cllr Larkin, who is also a member of City Hall's transportation strategic policy committee, said support and attention must instead by focused on the N6 Galway City Transport Proposed Road.
"The proposed road will remove the majority of traffic away from the city thus allowing a much needed, planned, and costed public transport system," he said. "This system will work in conjunction with safe cycle routes and walkways."
Cllr Larkin is basing his opposition to the Galway light rail system on the experience of Edinburgh, where the construciton of a light rail system caused major traffic disruption and ran over time and significantly over budget.
A 24km system was proposed for the Scottish capital in 2003, with an estimated cost of £375 million and a timescale of five years.
The project began in 2008 and opened in 2014, after having cost £776 million (€1.12 billion ), with a further £200 million (€284 million ) in interest on a 30 year loan taken out by the Edinburgh council to cover the funding shortfall. The final route only covered half the original distance envisaged, and almost £1 billion (€1.4 billion ) was spent to put a track 14km long from Edinburgh airport to the city centre - c£65million per kilometre.
"The Edinburgh saga sounds very similar to Galway - budget creeping up as the deadline begins to slip!" said Cllr Larkin. "We all remember the revamp of Eyre Square budgeted for €6 million and actually costing €20 million."
He also pointed out that in order to construct a light rail system, streets will have to be torn up and this itself will cause a number of problems relating to timescales, planning, and costs.
"Vital roads in Edinburgh were closed, causing major congestion, inconvenience, and financial damage to businesses over a five-year period. Some never recovered," he said. "Imagine the time delays and subsequent related costs if Prospect Hill, Forster Street, Eyre Square, Victoria Place, and Eglinton Street were dug up and services relocated to a suitable new area? Our city would be left grid-locked as soon as work commenced in any sites of architectural interests, in sections where utilities would have to be moved, and tracks installed. This would not be a matter of months – it would be a matter of several years."
Cllr Larkin, also drew attention to a statement by the Edinburgh West End Community Council chair, Gordon Wyllie, who said the light rail project "caused truly massive disruption, bankrupted traders whose businesses have been cut off from footfall, is widely regarded as a classical example of municipal folie de grandeur, is only half as long as projected, will never operate at a running profit, will never recover any of its massive cost."