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Address by Cllr Tim Rabbitt, Mayor of County Galway to Iompair Conference

(Decision Time for Transport in the Galway Region)

23 April 2004


Welcome to this important event where the future of transport provision in the Galway region will be the focus.

And welcome to the Oranmore Electoral Area where interestingly all modes of transport are present;

  • Galway Airport
  • National Primary Roads
  • Mainline Rail
  • Renville Marina

The community has local access to all these except mainline rail. Perhaps we will learn today when that promised opening of Oranmore Station will take place.

It is my desire that today's event should focus more on answers rather than questions.

Our speakers were deliberately chosen with a view to their decision making capacities. How often do we say in a moment of transport exasperation. "THEY should do something about it" Well "THEY" are here today. I look forward to hearing their proposals.

Roads and public transport affect all our daily lives. Whether it is getting to work or school; distribution of goods and products; gaining access to emergency services or potential customers; we each have a vested interest and dependency on transport efficiency and an opinion on how our transport needs can be best addressed.

Apart from its effect on our daily lives transport provision has a critical influence on the future economic and social development of the region. We depend on the continued success of locally based enterprise, on tourism and on continued investment by indigenous and overseas industry.

Such investment requires international standards of access and distribution.

We have to hand,

  • the National Spatial Strategy,
  • the Galway Transportation and Planning Study,
  • the County and City Strategies for Economic, Social and Cultural Development,
  • and the BMW sponsored report on the Western Rail Corridor.

In recent weeks the West Regional Authority have brought all these plans and strategies together in their draft Strategic Planning Guidelines which are now on public display.

In short, all the analysis is complete. We have reached a consensus on what improvements and remedial actions are required to deliver an integrated transport system, which will contribute to enhanced competitiveness in our regions economy, provide a better balance in regional development and offer improved access to socially deprived and isolated communities.

It is now decision time.

Local authorities and statutory agencies in this region have fulfilled their responsibilities in conducting the research and forward planning required by Government. Local authorities cannot take the ultimate decisions on the scale, order or prioritisation of the investments proposed. That is a matter for central government and centrally based government departments and agencies.

The Department of Transport hold primary responsibility for implementation of an integrated transport policy, designed to overcome existing delays, bottlenecks and congestion and to provide the consumer with greater choice by offering alternative modes of transport. The Department has responsibility for ensuring improved public transport provision through the timely and cost effective delivery of new public transport infrastructure and facilities, while in respect of aviation it holds responsibility for the provision of adequate airport infrastructure and competitive airport services.

I welcome the recent announcement by the Minister for Transport of a euro3.5 billion public transport investment package, and look forward to learning the further details, perhaps today, which are due to be published.

I trust that there will be significant investment provided for in the West, in reflection of the commitment given in the National Development Plan.

Economic development relies as I said earlier on integrated access and public transport provision. There are five partners required to bring about such integration;

  • National Government
  • Transport Operators
  • Local Government
  • Investment and service providers and
  • Participating Community Organisations

These five partners have declared their individual commitment. We must now collectively prove that commitment. The opportunity to do so can be expedited if the Department of Transport creates the impetus through the introduction of licensing and subsidy conditions, making integration a qualifying requirement. Public transport users look forward to the development of transport centres in their communities where irrespective of the name on the side of the bus or train there is a single co-ordinated transport service provided, with integrated timetables and ticketing.

While such an aspiration has been realised in other European countries the timetable for such a level of integration being achieved here in Ireland in the foreseeable future is unclear.

Local Government as one of these key players has:

  • completed the requisite area plans and strategies;
  • established interagency co-ordinating structures through County and City Development Boards and
  • have an established track record in the delivery, operation and maintenance of major infrastructural investments.

Traffic congestion is one of the major threats to the economic development of this region. This fact is reflected in all recent analysis. It is now a pattern of daily life for tens of thousands of road users, who have no alternative in the form of public transport.

There are not, as yet, any Quality Bus Corridors in place. A newly constructed railway into Galway City lies idle between 8 and 10 am while the parallel roadway hosts tailbacks stretching 8 miles long to Derrydonnell in the east and Knockdoe to the North. Daily commuters, from a forty mile distance in Ballinasloe, face a car or bus journey of up to two hours while a train can cover the same journey in 45 minutes - but no train service is available.

Neither must we forget the transport needs of those who live and require public services in rural areas. A number of pilot rural transport initiatives were introduced by the Dept. of Transport and I hope to see those made permanent and the provision of such initiatives made available to all rural areas. Surely one of the basic requirements for sustaining population in rural areas is the availability of a basic public transport service.

We can be proud in the Galway region of the success of Ireland's newest airline, Aer Árann, whose aircraft can be seen on a scheduled basis in an increasing number of international airports. Let us also acknowledge the critical role this airline plays in servicing our offshore islands and the further potential, yet to be realised, from the extension of such services to the remaining islands off the west coast.

We will hear also today from the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, regarding the implementation of improved marine services to these offshore islands. These developments have major implications for the quality of life of our island communities; their potential to capitalise on tourism and critically the future of the sea-fishing industry.

As Mayor of County Galway, I wish to facilitate the transmission of clear and concise information to the people of the Galway Region in regard to the official central response to the plans and strategies mentioned above.

Today the Department of Transport is pivotally represented at this conference by the Minister for Transport, and Assistant Secretary of that Department with responsibility for public transport planning.

The need is evident.

The solutions are defined.

The requisite resources are ring-fenced for this region, in the Economic and Social Infrastructure Programme, of the National Development Plan, for which the Department of Transport are the managing authority.

It is decision time !








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