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Response of Fr Mícheál MacGréil to the Irish Times

The Irish Times 21/06/06


Your Editorial, "Off the Rails" (June 9th), has aroused a sense of anger, disappointment and puzzlement in me, and in many who have campaigned for and supported the Western Rail Corridor for over a quarter of a century. The reactionary message of your Editorial called for the switching of funding from the Government's investment in the project. This was even more anti-west of Ireland than the Dublin-led effort to stifle the development of Knock Airport in the 1980s, a campaign of which The Irish Times was a part.

On November 1st, 2005, as part of Transport 21, the Government announced its decision to reopen the Western Rail Corridor in two stages: from Ennis to Claremorris and from Claremorris to Collooney. This was a positive and historic decision in support of balanced regional development of our cross-radial rail infrastructure, serving the northwest, west and southwest of Ireland. That decision has received enormous support from every local government and voluntary community-based body along the line. It counters the almost exclusively "radial" thrust of our overland transport system in and out of Dublin, which has been choking rail and road travel for years.

The restoration of the WRC at a relatively reasonable capital cost (due to the fact that we succeeded in persuading the former minister for transport, Séamus Brennan, to preserve the line in the early 1990s) is totally justified on grounds of social, economic, environmental and balanced regional development.

It is calculated that this national asset is worth between euro414 and euro500 million. All that is required is to upgrade the line and relay the track to modern standards. The engineering staff of Iarnród Éireann have the proven ability to do the work ahead of time and under budget, if given the opportunity to do so.

It also enhances the Irish rail network by linking the main lines from Dublin to Sligo, Westport-Ballina, Galway, Ennis-Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Rosslare. Because Waterford is one of Ireland's most important seaports, this line is ideally suited for lift-on, lift-off freight cargo from the west and northwest.

The WRC links three international airports, Knock, Shannon and Cork, and will also serve the needs of tourists, commuters, and those attending regional and public services such as colleges and hospitals. Knock Shrine, with over 1.25 million pilgrims per annum is also served by the WRC. In addition to linking the cities of Sligo, Galway, Limerick and Cork, the line also passes through 18 growing communities. These are the facts, which clearly do not fit well with the ideological blind spots manifested in your Editorial.

Is mise, le fíormheas,

Joint Secretary, Western Inter-County Railway Committee,
Loch Chluain,
Cathair na Mart,
Co Mhaigh Eo.

© The Irish Times ©








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