Eoghan Dalton Reports
Waterford Council is to lobby for free public transport for the city. The pilot project, proposed by Cllr Eddie Mulligan (FF), is an attempt to increase footfall, stem traffic congestion and reduce the carbon footprint.Citing national figures for Waterford, Cllr Mulligan said that three out of every four people in Waterford travel to work by car with fewer than 1.9 per cent commuting by public transport compared to a national average of 10 per cent.
It was seconded by his party colleague Cllr Jason Murphy of the City South electoral area and received widespread support from the Council chamber at the January meeting of the local authority. Cllr Mulligan said “radical new ways of thinking must be examined to tackle the challenges being experienced in Waterford City”, and said a free public transport model is a way of making up for the city being behind the national recovery in other cities.
“Let’s look at a city like Dunkirk in Northern France. It has a population of 90,000 – so not too dissimilar to Waterford – and has rolled out a revamped free bus system connecting the city to a cluster of neighbouring towns (opening it up to a hinterland of 200,000 people).
“Recent surveys show that the bus service has 50 per cent more new users with 48 per cent leaving their cars at home.
“A uniquely personalised Waterford City pilot project could reduce congestion on feeder routes such as the Dunmore Road, improve traffic movement efficiency, stop car parking issues, reduce wear and tear on roads and provide a vital injection of people for the local economy.”
This was supported by Cllr Marc Ó Cathasaigh (Green) who said problems could be posed by the main operator on the Dunmore Road being a private firm.
The chamber heard that it should initially be funded by the Minister for Transport with supportive European funding.The motion was supported by the Deputy Mayor of Waterford, Cllr Seamus Ryan (Lab) who has also called for an immediate review of the city bus routes to be published. Having raised this with Waterford Council Director of Services of Roads, Cllr Ryan was informed that the licensing of bus routes or any alterations to same are a matter for the National Transport Authority and the process is that the operator, Bus Éireann, would make application to the National Transport Authority (NTA) for changes or additions to routes.
Bus Éireann, in conjunction with the NTA, is currently reviewing the city services following the introduction of the new services almost 12 months ago and Cllr Ryan has requested the question of services to both the Kilbarry area and University Hospital Waterford be included.
He further requested that Bus Éireann be invited into a Council meeting at some stage over the next couple of months once the review is complete and prior to any new changes coming into effect.
“Waterford City continues to grow and as a result the city bus services need to be constantly under review,” he said.”I am calling on Bus Éireann to expand the bus services into the Kilbarry area and provide a bus services for estates such as Foxwood, Carraiganard, Lackenwood and Kilbarry as well as providing direct services to University Hospital Waterford from the Lismore Park area of the city”