A war of words has broken out between supporters and opponents of a light rail system for Galway, since Cllr Noel Larkin branded any such proposals an "utterly stupid conception". In turn he has been accused on "dwelling on the negative".
Cllr Larkin's contention that Edinburgh's experience of building a light rail system, which caused major traffic disruption and ran over time and significantly over budget, has been questioned by county councillor, and Independent Galway West candidate, James Charity, who said the Edinburgh light rail, has since gone on to operate successfully.
"There were higher than expected passenger numbers of three million in the first six months of the Edinburgh lines operation," he added, "and the project ran ahead of schedule once contractual disputes and litigation were resolved."
Both Cllr Charity and Brendan Holland, the former chair of the GLUAS light rail for Galway project, accused Cllr Larkin of failing to look at the experiences of other small cities, and choosing only to highlight negative instances.
"Edinburgh is one of only 400 lines in the world, and one of 60 that were in construction at the time," said Cllr Charity. "The recent introduction of a tramline in France increased public transport use by 30 per cent, indicating similar increases of use being experienced on the Edinburgh line."
In replying to Cllr Larkin's concerns over work on any light rail system for the city involving the tearing up of streets and consequent disruption to the public and businesses, Mr Holland pointed out, "we never said that there was not going to be disruption". He added that the "same excuse" was given by opponents of the LUAS in Dublin. "When the dust settled, I have yet to hear someone, anyone say 'Take up that bloody LUAS, its useless'," Mr Holland said. "All the properties, business residences, and city have benefit from being on the line. The LUAS has now become the symbol of Dublin."
He also said delays and overspending "have nothing to do" with the final projects and benefits of light rail, and that this is "a function of the overseer". Defending a GLUAS system for the city, he said it should be privately funded as this type of funding "tends not to have a habit of being over budget or over time".
Mr Holland criticised Cllr Larkin's contention that the Eyre Square rennovations, which ran over time and over budget, should act as a warning against light rail for Galway. "Are all future developments going to be scraped because this went over budget?" he asked.
Mr Holland also said that if Cllr Larkin, a member of City Hall’s transportation strategic policy committee, is "worried about the disruption of business" by the building of a light rail system, "maybe it he might start worrying about the damage to business while we sit waiting for something to be done".