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Full steam ahead for Ennis-Galway rail link

Clare Champion - 11th February 2005

by Gordon Deegan

Passenger services on the Ennis Galway rail-line are set to return, with a ministerial working group expected to recommend the re-opening of the line next month. The working group has been examining the feasibility of re-opening the Sligo-Limerick line over the past number of months. And at the February meeting of the Mid-West Regional Authority, director Tom Kirby told members that the group will recommend the re-opening of the 35-mile Ennis-Galway section as a priority, possibly in four stages. This line last had passenger traffic in 1976.

The report containing these recommendations is to be given to the Minister for Transport, Martin Cullen, next month. Before then the working group, on which Clare county manager, Alec Fleming, represents Clare County Council, will hold two more meetings. According to Mr Kirby, a member of the group, "There are officials from the Department and Iarnród Eireann on the working group, along with county managers from counties along the route and representatives from regional authorities".

The overall cost of re-opening the 114-mile Western Rail Corridor, from Ennis to Sligo, is put at euro350 million, and will finally link by rail the three cities on the western seaboard - Cork, Limerick and Galway. In supporting the recommendation, the working group secured figures from Iarnrod Eireann on the success of the recently restored Ennis-Limerick line.

Full scheduled passenger services were restored just over one year ago, with 58,475 journeys between Ennis and Limerick - a massive jump on the 4,236 using the service in 2003. The Ennis-Dublin service also showed a massive jump in passenger numbers, with 81,300 using the service last year compared to 46,700 in 2003.

Clare Fine Gael TD Pat Breen commented, "It is my understanding from speaking to senior Iarnrod Eireann officials that they are very much in favour of the Ennis-Galway line being upgraded. It will be a great boost to Clare and to Shannon Airport".

In response to a Dail question from Deputy Breen on the issue, Minister Cullen said, "Based on the success of the enhanced Limerick-Ennis line, Iarnrod Eireann is examining the possibilities for providing additional regional services in areas where the potential demand would justify the required investment








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