The President and CEO of Galway Chamber both told the oral hearing into the Galway City Ring Road of the negative impact that traffic congestions has on families, on livelihoods, on cancer patients, on students and on cyclists when they made a submission on Tuesday.
President JP Gilmartin and CEO Kenny Deery outlined how they have extensively surveyed the opinions of businesses, of cyclists and of city employees and compiled
Mr Gilmartin said that the Chamber has strategic five pillars for the coming five-year period. "These are our areas of focus, but problems with our transport network, congestion, lack of connectivity and high transportation costs for businesses operating in and out of Galway warranted the establishment of a ‘Transport Committee’ within the Chamber, chaired by Elaine Brick who has years of experience in infrastructure project management and delivery.
"This group has undertaken trojan work in their efforts to effect positive change in how we move about our city, county and wider region. This group has a vast range of experience in transport and infrastructure planning and delivery – this group firmly supports the need for the delivery of the Galway City Ring Road, hand in glove with the full delivery of the other components of the Galway Transport Strategy. One project on its own will not affect the necessary change. The delivery of the whole package is what is needed," he said.
CEO Kenny Deery said feedback from our members is the driving force for Galway Chamber.
"In order to represent them effectively we need to stay close, understand their challenges, remove roadblocks and enable them to seize global opportunities, while remaining local, creating high value sustainable jobs in our region.
"There have been seven surveys of our membership in the last twelve months. These examined the critical issues facing businesses. Outside of necessary financial interventions stemming from Covid-19 challenges, the main area of concern that keeps consistently arising, was and is the delivery of the N6 Galway City Ring Road, being highlighted as of critical importance.
Irrespective of what meeting we attend, what zoom call we are part of in Chamber, the first item for discussion continues to be the traffic in and around our city.
As part of these surveys, a task we posed to our members was to indicate how a list of local issues has impacted on their business. Over 81% of respondents stated that traffic congestion had either a ‘somewhat negative or very negative impact’ on their businesses.
The Get Galway Moving campaign aims to influence the stakeholder agenda to significantly improve the sustainability and efficiency of the transport network in Galway.
"There are two core parts to our campaign. One is the full delivery of the Galway Transportation Strategy, which will see a much more sustainable city. A healthier city. A low carbon city. This means encouraging movement alternatives, reducing the need for people to travel with remote/flexible working options, and to increase public transport mode share.
"The other part is supporting the Galway City Ring Road, which is a key component of Galway Transportation Strategy. This new road will free road space in the city centre, to enable a shift towards environmentally friendly transport modes, which will in-turn, bring about a sustainable transport and mobility system in Galway City and its environs.
"This proposed stretch of roadway from Barna to Briarhill will take the thousands of cars from our junctions and our roundabouts on a daily basis that neither need, nor want to be there.
"It’s not about one or the other, the vision of the Galway Transport Strategy cannot be delivered without delivery of the Galway N6 Ring Road, which will then in-turn, facilitate delivery of sustainable mobility measures as proposed in the Galway Transport Strategy. Critically we are driving home the message this isn’t just about business.
"Our research reflects the views of industry, but also a daughter from Mayo bringing elderly parents to hospital appointments; a college student talking about missing lectures as a result of congestion entering the city and a mother who would prefer cycle with her kids to school in the morning but it’s not safe. These are human stories.
The Galway Transport Strategy (GTS ) sets out a blueprint for future development of the Galway transport network. A key aspect of delivery of the GTS is delivery of the Galway City Ring Road. This project will be a vital enabler, not just for sustainable mobility, but for sustaining and growing the local and regional economy.
We in the Chamber are working with representative groups from across the region, from the towns of Clifden to Ballinasloe, the villages of Carraroe in South Connemara to Kilmaine just across the Mayo border. There are 72,000 daily passenger journeys in and out of our city, on junctions that are over capacity for what they were designed for.
"The opportunity cost, the waste of time, the impact on lives and livelihoods is not just felt in the city, it’s felt by these commuters in communities throughout the region. This loop of the city will have a transformative impact for all these people and the next generation.
"Galway Chamber and the ‘Transport Committee’ supports and encourages the use of active and public transport in the city and county. Only last week, we along with Minister Hildegarde Naughton supported the launch of a campaign with the Galway Cycling alliance.
Mr Deery concluded by saying that Galway's traffic problems cannot be solved by just providing cycleways and bus connects.
"Many contributing to this hearing will argue that delivery of cycleways and bus connects will be adequate and that this is a beast project. They are missing one key reflection – this is not just about the city, this is about the region and the west of Ireland. One morning earlier this year I was stuck in the daily 5km tailback coming in the Tuam Rd, one of many routes around the city we hear about on AA Road Watch daily.
"There was a mini bus in front of me and on the back and sides were painted the title “Donegal Cancer Care Bus Charity”, we rolled and stopped, rolled and stopped and after about 25 minutes they made Bothar na dTreabh and another 15 minutes made the Headford Road, they were turning right onto the bridge clearly heading for the hospital, I was able to come up the inside of them and observe – there were six people on the bus.
"Galway Hospitals are seen as a centre of excellence for the wider region. Not alone do these people have cancer, they have to leave Letterkenny before sunrise and make a long journey to Galway to receive chemo and return home – for fear that’s not enough they have to endure our traffic along with thousands of others visiting our four hospitals in Galway on a daily basis.
"This isn’t just about business, this isn’t just about economics, this is about the human toll of Galway traffic congestion," he concluded.