Two tonnes of rubbish in a canal – “the cost of outdoor living” in Galway – Connacht Tribune – Galway City Tribune:

Efforts to bring a number of private coach operators back to the city’s only dedicated bus station continue as a dispute over payment for its use rumbles.

Due to the dispute, a number of operators – including Citylink and GoBus – are picking up and dropping off their passengers at the roadside, creating what a local councilor described as “traffic chaos”.

The City Council confirmed this week that it is continuing to fine coach operators for parking outside Galway Bus Station in Fairgreen Road – up to 100 buses a day park illegally outside the station’s front door.

A number of tour operators have also pulled out of the station and stopped at other locations, as the Galway City Tribune first reported in 2020.

The dispute centers on the charges demanded by station operators – bus operators are said to want a pay-as-you-go system while station management insists that because its bays are reserved in the Under the bus companies’ licensing agreements with the National Transport Authority (NTA), they must pay for any slots they have reserved.

Galway bus station manager Oisín O’Brien told the Galway City Tribune that the station would not be viable if operators only had to pay for what they used and said that once that the NTA would have issued licenses on the basis that the station was the stopping point for a number of scheduled routes, they could not make those slots available to anyone else.

“We need €500,000 a year to wash the station’s face,” Mr O’Brien said of their running costs.

In a letter to local councilors, seen by the Tribune, Mr O’Brien said Galway Bus Station had not refused any of the operators involved use of the facility.

“In fact, these operators have been given contracts for the same thing, however, so far they have chosen not to sign the contracts and have instead made a conscious decision to operate on the street, without any action be taken against them even if they park illegally on the street and therefore fail to comply with the conditions of their permit,” he wrote.

Mr O’Brien told this newspaper that he was of the opinion that the NTA was not ensuring that the operators lived up to the terms of their license agreements.

“The way it works is that a bus supplier makes a request to the NTA, for example to run 500 buses [annually] between Dublin and Galway. The NTA asks where they will pick up and drop off and bus operators have two options – public or private ownership.

“City council allows the use of public stops or if they come to us and say ‘we need 500 slots’ we confirm that we can provide those locations to the NTA and they issue the license with that information included” said Mr. O’Brien.

“The first two lines of the licenses say the operator must comply with the terms of the license and if they don’t, they are committing an offence.

“The NTA has a responsibility to enforce this. They are the licensing and regulatory authority, but they have done nothing,” he continued.

Galway County Council owns the site on which the station is built and is operated by Head Space Group under a 999-year lease.

User fees are set by the Council and according to Mr O’Brien, they were set at €8 per slot in 2005, before being raised to €10 following a review in 2020.

The terms of the lease stipulate that the station must operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, incurring costs that only payment for all allocated slots will cover, he added.

Mr O’Brien declined to be asked if the continued operation of the station became unsustainable without the return of operators, but said Head Space was “100 per cent” committed to its continued operation.

‘We are fully committed to Galway bus station unless councilors or the NTA decide they no longer want a bus station and that would release us from our obligation,’ he said, adding that he remained hopeful that a solution could be found.

Chairman of the Council’s Strategic Transport Policy Committee, Cllr Frank Fahy (FG), said every effort should be made to resolve the dispute as the current layout of buses randomly parking on the street was causing an obstruction and posed a threat to road users.

“I’d like to see this problem solved – the city needs a bus station and it’s not good enough for the city to be ransomed over a dispute like this,” he said. .

A statement from Galway City Council said the local authority was aware of the dispute “between private bus station entities and some of the bus operators. We have engaged with key stakeholders and this is ongoing”.

“We are aware of the parking problems. Fines have been imposed and continue to be imposed,” the Council said.

Citylink and GoBus have been contacted for comment.

In a social media post this week, GoBus responded to a question related to the use of the bus station and said, “We look forward to the day this is resolved.”