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Sligo traffic congestion 'harming' business

The Irish Times - 29th December 2004

IBEC calls for action plan as survey finds gridlock is adversely affecting 85 per cent of local companies

by Marese McDonagh

Traffic congestion in Sligo is crippling local businesses, according to a new survey which found that gridlock is having an adverse effect on 85 per cent of companies there.

IBEC North West has called for an action plan amid claims that the long-awaited euro70 million "inner relief road' currently under construction in Sligo will not solve the problem. Following the detailed survey of 34 companies with a combined workforce of over 3,200, the employers' group said a new ring road and another bridge over the Garavogue River were essential.

Dr Jim Hoey, president of IBEC North West, said that gridlock in Sligo was "harming competitiveness" and was a serious obstacle to efforts to attract new businesses.

Dr. Hoey said the next National Development Plan must include a new ring road for Sligo but in the interim improved car parking facilities and public transport were vital.

Nearly half of the companies surveyed said congestion was having a major impact on their delivery schedules, with 40 per cent saying the traffic problems were having an impact on staff punctuality. While 8 per cent of companies said the inner relief road, which is due to be completed in autumn 2005 would ease congestion, 42 per cent said it would not solve the problem.

The research showed widespread dissatisfaction with how Sligo's notorious traffic congestion is being dealt with by the authorities. Over 90 per cent said Sligo Borough Council was ineffective as far as the gridlock was concerned, while 70 per cent were critical of how both the Garda and the National Roads Authority were responding to the problem. Some 12 per cent of the companies said they had relocated to another location in Sligo and that the traffic congestion was a factor in the decision. A further 12 per cent said they were considering a move and that the gridlock was a factor. Nearly 25 per cent said they wou1d consider introducing flexitime for staff in a bid to beat the gridlock but 46 per cent said they would not consider flexible working arrangements. Over 20 per cent said they would consider remote or tele-working for staff.

Improved parking facilities were regarded as the most important measure to alleviate the congestion while there were also calls for an improvement in public transport.

Following consultations between Sligo Chamber of Commerce and the local borough council, a free bus service was provided on four key days in the run up to Christmas, while free parking was provided at the Showgrounds, the home of Sligo Rovers. A free park-and-ride bus service was also introduced for the pre-Christmas period.

Local politicians warned that people would leave Sligo and shop elsewhere because of the ongoing traffic nightmare.

IBEC said it welcomed the planned expansion of Sligo's retail sector but warned that unless the traffic issues are dealt with in a strategic manner, "the ability to attract potential customers will not be realised".

Mr. Rory O'Connor, who represents IBEC on Sligo County Council's Infrastructure Strategic Policy Committee, said the survey showed that business people believe a package of improvements is needed.

"The new relief road is not going to be enough in itself," said Mr. O'Connor.








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