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West=On=Track Community Campaign Launched

15 June 2003

More than 100 people from communities across the west attended the launch of the West on Track community campaign aimed at re-opening the Western Rail Corridor which took place in the Teagasc Centre, Athenry, Co. Galway on Wednesday night last.

Committees have been set up in almost 50 centres across the west and more are being formed.

The meeting was chaired by Mr. John Joe Conwell, Chairman of the Galway community forum and was attended by many public representatives, including Mr. Denis Naughten, fine Gael Spokesman on Transport.

Welcoming those present, Mr. Conwell, who is also a member of the Steering committee of West on Track, pointed out that Athenry had been chosen for the launch of this campaign because of its pivotal position as a rail junction and as a response to the unilateral severance of the Western Rail Corridor by Iarnród Éireann at Athenry station recently.

A specially recorded message from Fr. Mícheál MacGréil S.J, chairman of the Inter-County Rail Committee and patron of West on Track was shown and featured Fr. MacGréil officially launching the campaign with a green flag at Claremorris station, the other main junction on the line.

Mr Frank Dawson, a senior official of Galway Co Council made a presentation on the current state of the WRC and outlined his vision of how it could be re-opened at far less cost than mentioned in the discredited Strategic Rail Review. Mr. Dawson also presented sample timetables for all stations on the line and showed how local commuter services in Galway, Sligo and Mayo would be seamlessly incorporated into the plan.

Professor Séamus Caulfield also addressed the meeting and gave his support to the campaign.

Speaking on behalf of the Steering committee of West on Track, Mr. Colman Ó Raghallaigh described the Western Rail Corridor (WRC) as one of the single most valuable pieces of infrastructure in the whole island of Ireland. Welcoming the massive response to the campaign to date, he said that the railway belonged, in the first instance, to the people of the West and that its re-opening would herald the beginning of a new era in transport and development in the whole western region.

"Communities throughout the region and rail campaigners all over Ireland are actively seeking the support of every citizen of our country for this project."

"The people of the East of Ireland are finding their daily lives more difficult as a result of unbalanced development and are increasingly coming to the view that population growth and development need to be more evenly distributed. Projects like the WRC will create a situation where many towns can be developed as a balance to the current crisis, giving respite to those in the East and a choice to those who seek to live elsewhere."

He noted the expenditure of euro247m on the Drogheda bypass and contrasted it with the euro210m estimated cost of restoring the entire WRC from Sligo to Limerick , including signalling, crossings, stations and rolling stock.

"No doubt you will all be aware of the reaction of Minister Brennan to the discredited Strategic Rail Review and its analysis of the potential cost of the WRC. In a departure from the report's recommendations, Mr Brennan said he would like to see the Western Rail corridor happen and he would keep an open door for community groups to come back to him. Well Minister, the communities of the West intend taking you up on that offer."

The campaign launched on Wednesday will feature a postcard and e-mail campaign to the minister as well as the collection of 100,000 signatures in a province-wide petition. There will also be a day of action in July in every town on the Western Rail corridor. A special campaign song and newspaper supplement are also planned.








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