Rail Campaign Is Now Well
On Track - Irish Times
The biggest ever campaign to re-open a railway line in
Ireland is now well on track. In the past three weeks, over
30,000 people have signed a petition calling for the
currently disused "Western Rail Corridor" from Sligo to
Limerick to be re-opened.
The West-on-Track campaign has really caught the
imagination of people living along the route with local
authorities, chambers of commerce, trade unions and
development groups from over 20 towns all rowing in behind
Since the campaign was launched last month, hundreds of
signs have been erected along the N17 Sligo-Galway road with
slogans like "Give us back our railway" and "Relieve the
East - Revive the West." Over 5,000 posters have been
distributed to retail outlets and businesses and 10,000 car
stickers have been handed out while 15,000 postcards
addressed to the Minister for Transport, calling for a
restoration of services, have been printed.
While some 31 miles of the route - at the northern and
southern ends - are part of already operational lines, some
114 miles in between currently have no rail traffic. The
section from Coolloney in Co. Sligo to Claremorris, Co.
Mayo, was shut in 1975 while the section from Claremorris to
Athenry and on to Ennis last had a freight train in 2001.
Much of the line is overgrown.
However, thanks largely to the efforts of Fr. Micheal
MacGreil, who has tirelessly campaign for the line's
re-opening, the track was not lifted and every mile is still
in public ownership.
In the Strategic Rail Review (SRR), published earlier
this year, the cost of renewing the Sligo-Limerick line,
including tracks, stations, signalling and level crossings,
was put at euro572million.
But this figure is disputed by Mr Frank Dawson, Galway
Co. Council's Director of Services, who has carried out an
extensive analysis of the line's potential. He maintains
that it could be re-opened for euro215 million.
"The total capital cost of the Western Rail Corridor is
overstated by euro327m (266%). An error of this magnitude
simply cannot go unchecked," he maintains, adding that just
15 diesel railcar units on 60 mph track, rather than 72
locomotive hauled carriages on 80 mph track as the SRR
budgeted for, would enable a comprehensive cross-radial
service to be operated as well as commuter services for
Limerick, Sligo and especially Galway which could have new
suburban halts at Oranmore and Renmore.
He claims that the track could be upgraded at a cost of
euro825,000 per mile rather than the euro2.4 million per
mile quoted in the SRR.
"It seems illogical that here we have an asset which is
not being utilised. It could be open in six months if the
green light was given. People are bursting to get the
train," notes Colman O'Raghallaigh, a member of the
West-on-Track campaign steering group.
He stresses that changing lifestyles and demographic
changes make the line far more viable now than when it lost
its passenger services. The need for more balanced regional
development and the provision of better public transport in
rural Ireland has struck a chord with communities along the
Copyright Irish Times 2003