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Call To Save Western Rail Link By Extending Across Border

Irish Times 18th June 2008 


By LORNA SIGGINS, Western Correspondent

A FORMER Green Party mayor has called on the Government to draw on cross-Border funding to extend the western rail corridor to Derry.

Cllr Niall Ó Brolcháin, former Green Party mayor of Galway, said that this would make the project "more viable", as it would draw on large populations in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, and Derry, with direct links to Belfast.

"A combination of rail freight services and cross-Border co-operation could add enormously to the potential of a project that may otherwise struggle in the current economic climate," Cllr Ó Brolcháin has said.

"I believe that any lack of action on public transport infrastructure now could be viewed as a serious missed opportunity in years to come," he said.

Cllr Ó Brolcháin, who ran as a candidate in Galway West in the last general election, also expressed disappointment at comments attributed last week to Fianna Fáil TD Frank Fahey that "appeared to pour cold water" on the project.

Mr Fahey, who is chair of the Oireachtas committee on transport, said that the Government had to be realistic about what money would be available for the next phases of the project.

Work began late last year on the initial euro106 million phase of reopening the corridor on a section between Ennis, Co Clare and Athenry, Co Galway. Mr Fahey told The Irish Times yesterday that all capital projects were under review by the Department of Finance, and he would be "fighting to maintain the projects we have in the west".

A proposed outer bypass road route, which is being considered by An Bord Pleanála, was also "vitally important", Mr Fahey said.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey says that the reopening of the western rail corridor remains a "top priority" for Government. Phases already approved would extend the rail network to Claremorris, Co Mayo.

"Even in more difficult economic conditions, expenditure on transport infrastructure will remain a key plank of this Government's strategy to grow our economy into the future," a spokeswoman for Mr Dempsey said.

Minister for Rural Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív said that he was "very pleased with progress to date" on the project, which was part of Transport 21 and enjoyed full Cabinet support.

The "West on Track" community campaign said that it believed a "recent systematic series of attacks" was an "attempt to obstruct the reopening of an existing piece of invaluable national infrastructure", and was "being set against the background of the recent downturn in Government finances".

"EU policy now recognises that rail is the most sustainable form of public transport. At a time of economic downturn, the Government is to be commended for learning from the mistakes of the past. A policy of prioritising investment in public transport infrastructure is a prudent and responsible course of action to take," the campaign said in a statement.

The rail corridor was the "only major public transport project in the west of Ireland", the campaign said.

"By contrast there are 14 major projects in the greater Dublin area. None of these is coming under sustained attack, nor should they. Ireland needs all the public transport infrastructure it can get," the group said.








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