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Anger over infrastructure underspend in West

Article from Irish Times website: Ireland.com October 2005

Public transport spending in the West is over euro200 million below the Government spending target, according to figures obtained by a group campaigning for the reopening of Western Rail Corridor (WRC).

Figures obtained by West on Track (WoT) and seen by ireland.com show that by the end of June 2005, public transport in the Border, Midlands and West (BMW) region was euro247m rather than the euro477m target for spending by the end of 2006.

There has been considerable pressure for the reopening of at least part of the Western Rail Corridor (WRC) and expressions of public support from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Transport Martin Cullen.

A Department of Transport expert group reported in May of this year found there was a "strong case" for the reopening of the WRC from Ennis, Co Clare to Claremorris, Co Mayo initially, with the potential to restore the remainder of the line to Sligo at a future date.

The failure to reopen at least part of the line has been a source annoyance in the West for some time as it is regarded as a ready-to-go project because the line already exists and is owned by the State.

But a spokesman for WoT, Colman O'Raghallaigh, told ireland.com that there was concern that the project would not go ahead as originally envisaged. "We are hearing vibes from various quarters that this railway will come to Athenry [Co Galway] but with only a vague promise to bring it to Claremorris [Co Mayo]," Mr O Raghallaigh said.

If the line were reinstituted it would link the West with Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford - a goal of the National Spatial Strategy.

Mr O'Raghallaigh said there was considerable demand for the line from people travelling to work and college in Galway and Limerick and said around 30,000 vehicles travel through the village of Claregalway to Galway city every day.

Many projects under the National Development Plan originally scheduled to cover 2001 - 2006 will not be completed until the end of the decade but the euro230 million underspend detailed in a report by Economic and Social Infrastructure Operational Programme (ESIOP), showed transport spending in the East and South had achieved 98 per cent of its target.

"With less than a year and a quarter of the National Development Plan left to run, the ESIOP Monitoring Committee must take immediate steps to rectify the situation by recommending the allocation of funding for the entire Western Rail Corridor if they are to have any credibility in the BMW Region.

"There are no other major infrastructure projects on the menu for the West. In a democracy, we must have parity of esteem for the regions.

"We have engaged very positively with the Government from the beginning but what we are saying is born out frustration and mystification," he said.

The costs of reinstating the rail line from Ennis to Claremorris would be euro160 million, offering "tremendous value for money", he added.

The Minster for transport is due to see the ESIOP report on Friday and a draft framework for transport investment is due before Cabinet shortly.

© 2005 ireland.com








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