Across Europe, light rail systems have been rolled out across cities of similar size and population to Galway, and are working successfully, meaning there is no longer any reason to oppose such a public transport system being constructed here.
A public meeting, entitled Gluas: A Light Rail System for Galway, to call principally for a light rail system for the city, as well as discuss public transport and solutions to Galway’s traffic problems, takes place in the Park House Hotel on Thursday November 30 at 8pm. It will be addressed by Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly and local businessman Brendan Holland.
In September, Dep Connolly arranged for a delegation to visit Angers, western France, where an ambitious light rail project has been rolled out. Over two days the delegation met with various officials and engineers and received presentations in relation to the build-up towards, and roll-out of, the light rail system. The project delivered 35kms of track for €300m and, according to Dep Connolly, the system has "transformed transport in the city, with no evidence of traffic congestion".
One of the main concerns, indeed obstacles to building a GLUAS system for Galway has been the disruption that would be caused in order to construct the rail lines and overhead cables, especially through the city centre's narrow streets. However, Ahlstrom, the company which constructed and delivered the Luas project in Dublin, has informed Dep Connolly that constant improvements to technology, and the newest light rail systems and designs, are shallower than Luas style trains and do not require the same disruption of utilities under the tracks.
Furthermore, the latest light rail project in Europe is currently under construction in Cosenza, southern Italy, which has a population of 70,000 people and a hinterland of 275,000 people - comparable to Galway. The project, co-investment between Calabria’s regional authority and a construction consortium, will deliver 10kms of track for €98 million by 2020.
Dep Connolly is now calling for "an urgent exploration of light rail as a sustainable solution to Galway’s traffic problems". However she acknowledged that the "challenge is to convince both local and national government" that Galway’s traffic problems can be alleviated via an integrated public transport system. Such a system would include light rail; park and ride on the west and east sides of the city; and the lifting of school traffic from our city streets.
In the noughties city councillors largely supported the roll out of a light rail system, but this never became government or Galway City Council policy. "The only solution ever looked at was the provision of further roads," Dep Connolly said. "The failure to date to give any serious consideration to light rail has actively contributed to the intolerable traffic congestion in the city. Now is the time to learn from the examples of other cities."
She also pointed out that commitments under climate mitigation legislation obliges Galway to take "immediate and long term steps" to reduce emissions and she says a light rail system will "go a long way towards these objectives" and give Galway "an entirely new green image".
Dep Connolly added it was "very important" to acknowledge the "hard-working committee which was chaired by Brendan Holland", which originally proposed and campaigned for GLUAS. The committee has recently been re-established.