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Rail Corridor work should start immediately - MacGréil

The Mayo News - Wednesday 9 November 2005

HAVING had time to reflect on the Government's multi-million euro plans for the re-opening of the Western Rail Corridor, the man most identified with the campaign to have this piece of transport infrastructure put in place said the time scale for its delivery was far too long.

Sociologist, Fr Micheál MacGréil, Secretary of the Western Inter-county Rail Committee which has been in existence for the past 26 years, told The Mayo News at the weekend that the 2014 delivery date was not acceptable.

"It can and must be done much earlier than that and now that the Government has approved the project, the work of my committee and the West on Track Committee must be to ensure that it is delivered in the shortest possible time and certainly long before 2014.

"We haven't gone away, you know, and our campaign from hereon will put the focus on implementation," he said. Fr MacGréil said he would expect every public representative along the western seaboard, national and local and irrespective of party affiliation, to press the Government for an early start on the rail corridor.

The doughty campaigner said he believed most of the work on the rail corridor from Ennis to Claremorris could be done inside a two-year period. His information was that the people who carry out such work were now experiencing a quiet period and would welcome the rail corridor brief, whereas in three years time they would be extremely busy again with other rail projects in and around Dublin.

"The usual obstacles to getting a project under way do not apply here. In the main planning permission is not required, wayleaves do not have to be established and the compulsory acquisition of land for the track does not apply as the old track is already in place for virtually all of the route. The time to get the work started is NOW."

Fr MacGréil said his committee and West on Track had 'total confidence' in the expertise of Iarnród Eireann to lay a first-class track along the corridor up to the highest international standards.

"It is our conviction that up to 700,000 passenger journeys will be made on the rail corridor every year, in addition to substantial tonnage of freight. All of the 18 urban communities along the line will benefit and new housing, employment and services will be built and generated in the catchment area of the corridor. Tourism will also be a huge beneficiary."

His colleague on the West on Track committee, Colman Ó Raghallaigh, was equally strong in his assertion that the time scale must be altered, describing the one currently projected as 'flawed'. "

While we appreciate it is a major development and is now Government policy, no one can understand why it may take up to nine years. The demand is there in the community to start in Claremorris the same time as they start in Ennis and, when this happens, then people will believe the promise. Our campaign was born of need, not hankering after the past or looking for steam trains. We invite all those who have an influence in these matters to look again and see how it can be progressed.

"I commend the Government for its decision to open the Western Corridor and especially Minister Ó Cuív, who has given us enormous help at all stages through the campaign. However, a more realistic timetable for delivery should be put in place."

The Claremorris man also expressed concern that while there is a commitment to fence and clear the railway north of Claremorris, there is no mention in the ten-year plan of renewing services on this line. Given the phenomenal growth of Knock Airport and Sligo, our view is that this would certainly need to be re-examined as soon as the southern section is re-opened. Now is the time to undertake this work, the longer it is left, the more it will cost.

I believe what we have here is a flawed timescale in relation to the re-opening of the line south of Claremorris. However, I am confident the Government will have another look at it given the welcome that the news has received in the West, and that common sense will prevail."








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