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Rail Group gathers 40,000 signatures in bid to re-open rail line

Irish Examiner 16th July 2003

By Michael Brennan

It will be political suicide for the Government if the Western Rail Corridor is not reopened, the West On Track group has warned.

The group, which was recently formed to reopen the 145 miles of railway track from Sligo to Limerick, has already collected 40,000 signatures for its petition in under a month.

Another 2,000 emails have been sent to Transport Minister Seamus Brennan's office from the group's website.

"Up to now, the Western Rail Corridor has been ignored, like the crazy aunt that was kept locked up

in the house. We are going to redouble our efforts and by the time the local elections come along next year, we hope to have it in the bag," group spokesman Colman Ó Raghallaigh said.

The reopening of the Western Rail Corridor (WRC) was dismissed in the recent Strategic Rail Review as too expensive at _572 million. But West on Track's own analysis put the cost at _230m. Its vision is of a regular 60mph three-car train service which serve 20 towns and opens up the West to workers, students and tourists.

"We're offering the Government the infrastructure to make an alternative grid, rather than the gridlock you have in the east. The whole country will benefit," Mr Ó Raghallaigh said.

The group erected hundreds of posters along the N17 before the Connacht football final between Galway and Mayo. Frustrated supporters stuck in hour-long traffic jams on the N17 road were told: "If you'd taken the train, you'd be there by now."

West on Track will also hold a protest in towns across the West within weeks, as well as publishing supplements in local newspapers. Mr Ó Raghallaigh said there were encouraging signs for the project.

Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Eamon Ó Cuiv and Transport Minister Seamus Brennan have expressed support for the WRC. When the rail line from Collooney in Co Sligo to Claremorris, Co Mayo, was shut in 1975, Mr Brennan agreed not to dismantle the line.

"For that reason, there is enormous goodwill towards the minister in the West. We believe he is committed to the rail corridor but the proof is in the pudding," Mr Ó Raghallaigh said.

The authors of the Strategic Rail Review are making another study on the WRC and the Western Development Commission is examining a development strategy for Western towns, with the rail corridor specifically in mind








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