GLUAS dream boosted by 'very light rail' success in Coventry

A proposed 'very light rail' carriage bound for UCHG

A proposed 'very light rail' carriage bound for UCHG

The battle to bring ‘very light rail’ to Galway has been reborn following the establishment of a similar rail system in Coventry.

The GLUAS committee, a team dedicated to bringing a ‘very light rail’ system to Galway, have called for a comparative feasibility study for the city. This is in the hope that the study could confirm that a ‘very light rail’ system may be the weapon to help defeat the long standing issues with congestion within the city.

The topic of light rail in Galway is one that goes back over four decades. Initially proposed in the 1980s it was quickly discarded by some who said that the city was too small and very light rail was too expensive. The vision was resurrected in 2010 when Professor Lewis Leslie collaborated with the Engineering Department in NUIG to study a solution to traffic. A key feature of Prof. Leslie’s vision was a very light rail system which only required a shallow base track and did not interfere with underground structure.

The subject of traffic congestion in the city has long been a topic of concern, with one planned solution, the €600 million N6 Galway City Ring Road having been approved in 2021. However, for the GLUAS Committee, they do not believe that it will be the cure all as previously described.

Speaking on the topic, GLUAS Committee Chairman, Brendan Holland said “the outer bypass people have spent six months sweating that the best they could get from modular shift, from cars to buses - at max, if they got the ring road in - the best shift from car to public transport is 8%. Previous studies will tell you that very light rail will shift to 20%. We’ve never been convinced of anything more- that this is a game changer.”

“We are fifteen years at this thing, banging our heads off the wall, but we’re still as enthusiastic as ever, because we know we are right.”

When discussing the proposed outer bypass, Holland said, “if we want to project ourselves as a smart city, we need to do something about it. We are under the impression that the bridge will fix everything, but this isn’t the case.”

As such, the GLUAS team are calling for a comparative feasibility study to take place, measuring the prospect against the proposed ‘Coventry Very Light Rail’ (CVLR ) system in the English city, which was recently awarded £115.9 million in grant funding. This in turn has lit a fire under the GLUAS committee, as it is a fair comparative for the city of Galway regarding population and size.

“The reason we have gotten on so well with Coventry is because we are exactly the size market city they are trying to feed. Coventry is an example of what we are trying to achieve.”

Currently the GLUAS committee’s main concern is that if they do get a feasibility study off the ground, that it will be measured against Dublin City’s LUAS system. “We’re afraid they’ll do the study but measure it against the LUAS. What we really need them to do is to go to Coventry. Put reality on theory, it has proven that the potential is there and it’s not a guinea pig,” Said Holland.

For Brendan Holland, the vested interest is not only in helping ease vehicular congestion around the city, but also the environmental impact of having so many cars on the road.

“Very light rail ticks so many boxes, it helps with climate change, it frees up space and removes reliance on second cars on families. I look at my grandchildren and I think to myself, France is on fire now, what’s it going to be like when they grow up.”

“We love our cars, but the reason we are pushing this is because we have no choice. There will be an added ten or fifteen thousand jobs coming in, but no parking or transport for them.”

The proposed very light rail system would run for twenty kilometres, starting in Bushy Park with a park and ride system, pass by NUIG and Eyre Square along with ten other stops, ending up near Ardaun. The GLUAS committee are also suggesting free access to the hospital.

For members like Brendan Holland who have fought for this vision for so long, the GLUAS is a no brainer. Congestion combined with climate change and what has been described as a ‘dying city centre’ all prove that there is a desperate need for a solution, and that ‘very light rail’ is it.

“Our fight is to bring very light rail to Galway. We see it as a game changer.”

Across the water, Nicola Small, Snr. Rail Programme Manager with Coventry City Council said, “It’s great to see continued interest for Coventry Very Light Rail in Ireland. Our system was designed specifically to make urban light rail a possibility for smaller cities, and we look forward to working with authorities across the world to make affordable urban light rail a reality in the coming years.”


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