Galway campaigners question consultants' report on cost


GALWAY’S LIGHT rail campaign is urging Galway City Council to become a partner in a €240 million public transport project.

Councillors will be asked to back the light rail project tonight at a presentation for the local authority.

The Gluas campaign says its project would cost a fraction of the estimate quoted in a recent consultancy report for the local authority, which opted for “bendy buses” over light rail for Galway.

The MVA consultancy report for Galway City Council claimed a light rail system would cost almost €700 million – 80 per cent more than the cost of a rapid bus network.

It said an improved bus system, initiated in tandem with park-and-ride facilities and traffic restrictions, would almost treble the use of public transport in Galway to 14 per cent of road users by 2020. It said light rail would take 10 years to start work on, and would cause significant disruption.

However, the Gluas campaign, comprising key city businesses and academics from NUI Galway, argues that a “light-touch” rail system could be provided at one-third of the cost.

It says the private sector would deliver on much of the cost, estimated at between €210 million and €240 million for a three-line system on 21km of track.

The campaign also questions how the MVA consultants could have come up with a cost for light rail almost equivalent to that spent on the Luas in Dublin when Galway is a city of only 80,000 people.

The disclosed cost of building the Red and Green Luas lines in Dublin was €770 million, three times the original prediction of €254 million.

“In Dublin a key part of the Luas construction and some 40 per cent of the budget involved moving services, which we don’t have to do here,” said Gluas campaign chairman Brendan Holland at the weekend. “We are hoping to construct three lines here with a mixture of EU and private funding.”

The campaign has been working with TramPower Ltd in England on a light-touch system which would be fuelled by electric power generates from the city’s canal system and wind turbines

“The European Investment Bank said we would qualify for 50 per cent funding, so we just have to ask the Government to introduce a tax incentive which will encourage private companies to back us,” said Mr Holland.

The MVA consultancy report estimates that Galway’s population is too small to sustain the cost and running of a light rail, working on a city population estimate of 72,000 and a city/county commuting population within a 30km radius of almost 170,000.

It favours a “bendy bus” network for Galway at a cost €115 million, with an extra €89 million recommended to improve the current bus system.

The consultants described the light-touch rail proposal as a “high-risk strategy” which had not been widely tested or used.

An Taisce’s Galway branch spokesman Derrick Hambleton said: “MVA has carried out similar reports for other local authorities, and has taken a similar approach to downgrading light rail in favour of buses, which we would question.

“We firmly believe light rail on an east-west axis in Galway would solve the city’s transport issues, given that people live on the west and work in the east, and would contribute to positive development of the city,” he said.

The Gluas group cites Freiburg in Germany and Valenciennes in France as cities which can provide transport models for Galway.

Valenciennes in northern France is smaller than Galway with only 43,000 residents. Freiburg in southwest Germany, which has been described as the “greenest city in the world”, has a population of 200,000 which is equivalent to Galway city and its hinterland.