CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank Galway County Council for inviting me today to join with you in the opening of the new bus priority facilities here in Claregalway. I am very much a believer in public transport as a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to the private car. Encouraging people to make the switch to using public transport is one of the key goals of my Department.
If we are to persuade people to opt for public transport, we need to make sure that it is efficient, reliable, and attractive. The introduction of bus priority measures is a vital part of achieving this goal.
Here in Claregalway there has for some time been a bottleneck for bus services. Bus operators, the County Council and the travelling public are all too aware of this. In response to this problem, the County Council has developed the bus priority measures which we are opening today. In line with my support for bus priority, I was very happy to be able to make funding available from my Department to ensure that these measures could be put in place, and I would like to congratulate the County Council on the fine job they have done.
The Council has completed two sections of bus lane here in Claregalway, a Southern section which is 1.76 km long, and a Northern section of 1.83 km. Each section will deliver significant time savings for the traveling public, estimated at 11 minutes in the case of the Southern approach, and 16 minutes for the Northern.
These are not notional benefits, as bus operators operating through Claregalway are happy to affirm. You may be surprised to hear that there are as many as 134 bus movements through Claregalway per day. This means 67 services traveling into Galway City and 67 out. The practical effect is that people traveling through Claregalway to the City, or from Claregalway to the City, will see a significant improvement in the speed, and also in the reliability, of these services.
As everyone is aware we are facing into very difficult challenges arising from the downturn in the global economy. However, in facing the present challenges we must also plan and act for a prosperous future. In this context, we in Government have made clear our determination to maintain investment in our national infrastructure to the maximum extent possible in the current restrictive fiscal circumstances.
We need to get our economy moving again, and the investment we have already made and are continuing to make in our transport infrastructure is an important component in making that happen. If we are to be competitive and to attract investment, we must have the infrastructure to promote and sustain growth. This is true at national and at local level.
Galway City is a key driver of development in the west of Ireland. For this reason it was rightly recognised as a Gateway in our Government’s National Spatial Strategy. The new bus priority measures introduced here in Claregalway, along with bus priority measures in Galway City, will not only be of benefit to Claregalway, they will help to promote Galway City as a centre of growth. They will also help to harness and link the region, including the NSS hub town of Tuam, to join in that growth. In tandem with other measures – such as the forthcoming reopening of the first phase of the Western Rail Corridor – the elimination of delays for public transport through Claregalway will help to boost the development of the Western region as a whole. For these reasons, it is a great pleasure to declare these two sections of bus lane open.