Allowing City Hall to operate the forthcoming new urban traffic control system was this week compared to Idi Amin’s bizarre running of Uganda in the 1970s.
The comparison was made by controversial Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely, who said he has no faith in City Hall to operate the new system, which he believes will fail to solve the city’s traffic congestion.
On Monday, contracts were signed at City Hall awarding the Elmore group the winning tender for a €1.26 million project to computerise the city’s traffic junctions. The system will initially control 27 junctions, and is expected to be completed within six months.
Despite voting by a majority for the upgrading of junctions, councillors at Monday’s city council meeting displayed a lack of faith in the system.
Managing director of Elmore Group Mark Elmore outlined the company’s success in installing the system in cities such as Rome and Florence, but when questioned on the benefits of the system to city traffic Elmore said: “I cannot guarantee you what gains will be given to Galway.”
Four main corridors will be brought online initially with other junctions to be included as the system grows, and the junctions are capable of working with the system. The corridors will include the Dublin road corridor, the N6 corridor, Fr Griffin Road corridor, and Monivea Road corridor.
A nerve centre will be installed in City Hall to control traffic. The system will be automated and able to automatically regulate traffic flow. However from the hours of 7am to 7pm it will be manned by two engineers.
The staff to operate the UTC will be drawn from City Hall staff and they will receive training in using the system. They will be able to manually intervene to ensure traffic keeps flowing where emergencies arise such as in traffic accidents and road closures for specific works, etc.
However Cllr Conneely was unimpressed by the details he was given and said that ‘handing over control to Galway City council is like giving control to Idi Amin”.
Speaking to the Galway Advertiser after the meeting, Cllr Conneely said, “The public have no confidence in City Hall management and staff on this issue. I shudder to think how it will be run by them.”
Cllr Conneely argues that replacing the roundabouts with signalised junctions and installing a UTC will not solve congestion in the city as it cannot change “the amount of cars already on the roads”.
“It won’t stop the supply of cars and overflow of cars on the roads as it won’t reduce that,” he said. “Also the distances between the junctions and roundabouts in the city are very close so it will be impossible to prevent build-up of traffic between junctions, especially as the numbers of cars on the roads is not going to lessen between now and when the system is installed.”
Joe Tansey, head of the council’s Galway Transportation Unit, acknowledges that the UTC “will not solve all the city’s traffic problems” but that it will allow City Hall to “better manage the traffic flow” and be an important “part of the solution”.
“The roundabouts have come under pressure in terms of traffic volume and given rise to significant delays and congestion,” he said. “Roundabouts do not have the ability to deal with this, so to improve traffic flow we are introduce signalised junctions, which are better able to deal with delays and congestion and the UTC will co-ordinate traffic flow.”