Opposition to the road route proposals in the Galway City Transport Project was upped several gears last night with the news that NUI Galway will be objecting in the strongest possible terms to any developments which threaten its future.
In a strongly worded statement, the university said that the imposition of these routes would derail and disrupt past, present, and future developments and would render wasted decades of careful planning which have turned the university into one of the finest in Europe.
It said that the physical growth of the university has been carefully planned over many decades. A programme of land acquisition in Dangan had allowed the university to increase the area for new buildings while simultaneously acquiring space for sports facilities.
The unified campus is now an educational base for more than 17,000 students. The University continues to climb in world rankings, reflecting significant improvements in research activity and overall performance, but it feels that this progress would be severely disrupted by the current proposals which would bulldoze through the campus.
According to the university, the plans would split the campus in two and undo all the efforts undertaken for decades to bring it all together in a cohesive and well structured manner.
All of the options outlined for the proposed road route have the potential to cause major disruption to the city and the University. But the Red and Blue routes are particularly damaging in the scale of devastation they propose.
The Red Route would create a second bridge and embankment, throwing up a permanent and formidable barrier that would cut the campus in half.
It said the Red Route would ‘destroy’ the Student Sports Centre and that as there is no other available site on which to relocate this, the college is faced with having to locate all sports services at a considerable distance from the campus.
It says that this would send out the wrong message about the importance of sport if it were forced to move sports facilities off campus.
“If options with differences in cost of as much as €250m are under consideration, how can these proposals reasonably be seen as a comprehensive appraisal of a “Transport Project”? Just as we don’t know how and when the concept of the Outer Bypass disappeared entirely from consideration [acknowledging that European and Supreme Court decisions created major problems for the initial plan], we have no information on what assessment has been done of alternative methods of dealing with local transport issues. “Presumably €250m would make a significant contribution towards a light rail system, and certainly it would pay for very significant improvements in the bus system,” the statement added.
A campaign group set up to seek to use part of the Western Rail Corridor as a greenway until such time as it can be developed to provide a rail service has this week welcomed comments from Iarnród Éireann indicating the company would be open to the project.
The group, the Western Rail Trail Campaign, was reacting to comments this week by IE director of infrastructure Don Cunningham at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. Mr Cunningham said IE would be open to non-operational railway lines being developed for alternative uses, provided there was an understanding that they could revert to operational use in the future.
The Western Rail Trail Campaign is seeking to protect the alignment of the non-operational railway line from Athenry to Collooney in County Sligo by placing a greenway on the route until such time as a railway is possible. Brendan Quinn of the Western Rail Trail Campaign welcomed Mr Cunningham’s statement and said similar sentiments had been expressed by Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe, in correspondence with the group. Mr Quinn said Minister Donohoe had indicated that a greenway along the route would protect the integrity of the line.
“We are pleased to see Mr Cunningham of Irish Rail is taking the same view as the Minister,” Mr Quinn said. “Greenway campaign groups the Tuam Greenway Project, the Sligo Mayo Greenway Campaign, and the Sligo Greenway Project Campaign, all support the view of both Mr Cunningham and the Minister. A greenway built under licence, with the railway route leased out on the basis that if an operational railway ever becomes possible again in the future, is the accepted international best practice used in other countries for this kind of situation.
“Now we know the official line of Irish Rail and the Minister on this issue there should be no further delay in utilising this route now to expand the greenway network in the west and help our tourism industry which is crying out for this vital piece of tourism infrastructure to be built.”