Response of Fr
Mícheál MacGréil to the Irish Times
The Irish Times
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
Is mise, le fíormheas,
MÍCHEÁL Mac GRÉIL SJ,
Joint Secretary, Western Inter-County Railway Committee,
Cathair na Mart,
Co Mhaigh Eo.
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