Thursday, 7 October 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to deal with this important issue, with which she is very familiar. I do not want anything I will say to in any way pre-empt or be seen to try to influence An Bord Pleanála. Its decision will be made in due course, but it is imminent. It is what happens after that decision is made, if it is positive, and what processes will follow that I want to address.
This project has been in existence for the past 30 years, but the reality is the most recent analysis of Galway's transport requirements was done in 2016 by Galway City Council, Galway County Council and the National Transport Authority, NTA. It was a very comprehensive strategy that looked at walking, cycling, public transport, etc. One of the things it highlighted was that Galway needed a road around the city as a piece of critical infrastructure to connect east to west. The Minister of State, no more than me, is familiar with the territory, but many people watching and listening to this debate will not be. Approximately 40,000 people live in the west of the city while another 40,000 people, approximately, live in Connemara, which is west of the city. That is a total population of 80,000. It is an area that attracts a large number of tourists every year.
There are two ways out of Connemara, effectively. One can come across the city. Alternatively, because Lough Corrib forms a barrier between east and west - between Connemara and the west of the city and the east of the city and the rest of the country - one has to go 50 km north, to where I live in Cornamona, to get out by the next available route. Within the city, there are four bridges across the River Corrib, three of which are old. One of them, the Salmon Weir Bridge, which is very famous in Galway and that many people know, is to be transformed for public transport, cycling and walking use only. The other two bridges in the city centre are very narrow, which leaves one newer bridge across the River Corrib to take the traffic of 80,000 people coming and going, many of whom do so every day. In Galway, many people live in the west of the city, while its industry is in the east of it.
They need to break the logjam to free up city space for cycling, walking and all the other purposes we want in our living cities, including for public transport, with which Galway is poorly served because the road infrastructure is not there. The need to progress with this bypass is evident.
I want the Minister of State to outline the processes that will have to be followed if this project is approved by An Bord Pleanála before it will go to construction, taking into account the announcement in the national development plan, NDP, this week and, more particularly, the announcement made by the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, of a new step he has put into the evaluation of all these projects as regards their carbon footprint.