NTA no-show irks city councillors

Politicians say constituents concerned about National Transport Agency plans for Galway

BusConnects infographic

BusConnects infographic

‘If the mountain won’t come to Mohammad, then Mohammad must go to the mountain’ is the attitude of Galway city councillors who passed a motion calling on the Government to regionalise the NTA after Dublin-based officials did not attend City Hall’s final meeting of its five-year term last week.

An invite was sent to NTA officials in early April inviting them to attend Galway City Council to explain radical plans to reroute city buses, and other transport issues.

Officials’ last-minute cancellation prompted councillors to pass a motion demanding the Department of Transport establish a local NTA office to deal with Galway’s chronic transport issues.

The National Transport Agency said scheduling was the reason its staff postponed an expected grilling by councillors. “It was simply a matter of lack of availability of the appropriate officials on the day of the meeting,” said an NTA spokesman. “We have told Galway City Council that we’d be happy to make a presentation on the bus network redesign at a subsequent meeting.”

In response to Galway councillors’ motion to set up a branch office in Galway, the NTA said that through TFI Ireland, Iarnród Eireann and Bus Éireann – which deliver subsidised public transport on its behalf – it already has a “strong, local presence”.

Not previously known for the direct action tactics of environmental militants, councillors Declan McDonnell (Ind ) and Mike Cubbard (Ind ) promised dramatic responses to NTA bus route and car parking plans.

“If we have to lie down on the road, we’ll lie down on the road,” O’Donnell pledged to Mervue-eans in the council chamber audience.

“I have to be honest, he’ll do anything for a vote,” joked fellow city east councillor Mike Crowe (FF ), before city centre Councillor Cubbard – not to be outdone - piped up: “Well I’ll lie down in Raleigh Row!” in reference to residents’ parking concerns there.

Over 500 Mervue residents have signed a petition opposing aspects of the NTA’s new BusConnects network in Galway. The 60-year-old 401 route through Mervue is to be scrapped, and the 405 double decker controversially re-routed through narrow, residential streets including Barry Avenue and Tone Avenue.

Meanwhile, residents ‘back the west’ near Scoil Naisiunta Iognaid are up in arms about losing on-street parking to ‘safe school’ zoning, outdoor dining and an NTA-funded €530,000 school parking revamp, according to Cubbard.

Councillor John Connolly (FF ) suggested the Government establish regional transport agencies, as its NTA proposals for Galway seem “too Dublin- or big city-centric, and reading their [plans] I detect an unfamiliarity with areas here.”

NTA officials have postponed visiting City Hall until late June. “Hopefully we’ll still be here,” Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind ) wondered out loud, no doubt reading the chamber.

Councillor Alan Cheevers (FF ) described the NTA’s “gun to the head approach” as unacceptable, and queried why it must “fix bus routes if they’re not broken? What have they been talking about since we invited them here…? The weather?”

Councillor Noel Larkin (II ) publicly demanded NTA engineers visit the City East ward, and see for themselves street widths and wheelchair access points.

Mayor Eddie Hoare (FG ) expressed his “disappointment the NTA has not shown up today,” citing a lack of clarity on proposals to run a Rahoon bus through Bun a Chnoic and Cnoc an Óir estates.

City interim chief executive Patricia Philbin promised to request written answers from the NTA to Councillor Colette Connolly’s (Ind ) questions on the rationale behind re-routing buses through housing estates. “Double deckers [there] are absurd,” she said.

Knocknacarra-based councillors Níall McNelis (Lab ) and Donal Lyons both called for a bus turning circle to be built on the Upper Ballymoneen Road, and for transport officials to use Compulsory Purchase Orders to buy necessary land if required.

 

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