Address by Cllr Tim
Rabbitt, Mayor of County Galway to Iompair
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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
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
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
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 !