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Irish Rail cautiously positive on Western Rail Corridor

Press Release - 4th June 2005

Iarnrod Eireann tonight vowed to run trains on the defunct Western Rail Corridor in the West for the first time in 30 years if the Government gave the project the green light. An expert group recommended last month that most of the 114-mile route from Ennis to Sligo would be viable and should reopen. It said the revamped line would cost euro365m but that a final stretch of line to Sligo would not likely be viable in the near future.

But Iarnrod Eireann told the Oireachtas Transport Committee that if the Transport Minister decided the disused link was viable, then the State company will come on board.

Acting chief executive Dick Fearn said: "Anything is viable given a subsidy but there are different levels of operation."

Mr Fearn, who has 32 years of experience in the UK rail industry, said he could not give an comprehensive answer until a clear audit was made of track upgrade and rolling stock required.

"If the Government come along and say to us there is a social and economic case for extending the network and linking the West, as professional railway people we would have to respond to that."

He said the Government will have to decide the level of operation of the Corridor and how big a State subsidy it would provide.

Galway TD Paul Connaghton said the revamp of the Western Rail Corridor was vital for the future prosperity of the West of Ireland .

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent called for the Corridor to be prioritised as a national infrastructure issue. "We're talking about an overall economic objective here as well as a transport link," he said. But

Mr Fearn said Iarnrod Eireann's first priority was to run the existing network as efficiently and safely as possible. "This is not part of our current duty of care and operation to the railway network. It would be an addition to our network if it was brought back into service."

A Strategic Rail Review in 2003 concluded there wasn't a clear economic case for the revival of the Corridor which closed in 1974. But former Transport Minister Seamus Brennan set up a working group on the link after strong lobbying campaign by the West on Track group.








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