Shops and businesses in Galway city risk a major loss in trade, following the opening of the M18 Tuam to Gort motorway, which could see "thousands of shoppers going to Ennis and Limerick instead".
This is the view of Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish who has warned that "new initiatives", such as a permanent park and ride facility, must be introduced to counteract any drop off in trade as a result of the new motorway.
The opening of the M18 last week was largely greeted with enthusiasm, but Dep Grealish struck a pessimistic note, saying the new motorway, along with Galway's "much publicised traffic problems" will make it difficult to attract shoppers into the city.
“There has to be a whole revamp of the way businesses are treated in Galway," he said. "While there are many positives about the extension of the motorway — the likes of Claregalway and Clarenbridge will benefit, for instance — there are negatives as well. You are going to have a lot of people going to Ennis and Limerick, where the local authorities are very much pro-business. Even now shoppers are going to Athlone rather than Galway."
Dep Grealish said a first step to "counter this threat" was for the Galway city and county councils to develop a cheap, or even free, park and ride service between the city and Galway Airport, to be run seven days a week, early until late, with a bus lane running as far as possible into the city.
“We should be encouraging people from Limerick and that whole region to come to Galway," he said, "but that is highly unlikely to happen when they know they are going to get caught up in the nightmare that is traffic in the city at the moment.”
He said such a park and ride facility would benefit people working in the city and the Parkmore area. According to Dep Grealish, c10,000 people travel in and out every day, and at a recent meeting with council officials, he was informed that 80 per cent of them travel in from east of the city.
He is also calling on the Galway City Council to re-examine the recently introduced Sunday parking charges, which he said were "not a help", especially as charges in Limerick are half of those in Galway and neither Limerick nor Ennis charged for parking on Sundays.
The Carnmore based TD said it is was not good enough to simply wait for an outer bypass road to be built. "What are we supposed to do in the meantime?" he asked. "We need to get Galway moving now." Dep Grealish has also pledged to table a Dáil query to Transport Minister Shane Ross asking him to agree to fund any proposal for the above outlined park and ride service which the Galway local authorities may put to him.