western rail corridor
rail links




West=On=Track - News

The West on Track community campaign was launched to co-ordinate a massive community response.

The recent revelation of an underspend of euro644 million in the BMW region and particularly the West of Ireland, is proof, if proof were needed, that people in this region appear to inhabit a different country to their fellow citizens in the South and East. This, despite the fact that we are constantly told that we now live in a new Ireland, with equality for all the regions being a central objective of Government planning.

The National Spatial Strategy, for example, raised hopes of redressing regional imbalance. The West was to gain gateways and hubs, joined by a "strategic linking corridor", mirroring the course of the railway, from Sligo to Rosslare, facilitating the flow of people and goods within the region and to the ports. Surely the wisdom of leaving the Western Rail Corridor in situ was at last being recognized? The Strategic Rail Review jolted people back, to what provincial Ireland has to come to except. If you are lucky enough to have a railway, by all means travel to Dublin and back, but don't aspire to inter-regional rail travel!

Was the headlong pursuit of a "radial routes only" policy, the best that the consultants could offer? Did no one notice that the Ireland of 2003 has changed more radically, socially, economically and demographically since 1975, than in the preceding 100 years? Yet, the largest single piece of unused infrastructure in the state - The Western Rail Corridor - was not considered a worthwhile option. Anger, dismay and frustration quickly gave way to a steely determination that something had to be done, on a province-wide level. The harsh realities of second-class citizenship finally hit home at a conference in Claremorris hosted by the Western Development Commission, to discuss the impact of the S.R.R. on the West. (Texts of papers available at www.wdc.ie)

The West On Track community campaign was launched in Athenry to co-ordinate a massive community response. Using postcards, e-mail and a hugely successful petition, people in every part of the West set out to express their demand for a genuine commitment by the Government to the future infrastructure of the region. The Western Rail Corridor was defined as Sligo to Limerick, with the Limerick to Waterford line as the obvious onward link for freight exports.

The Sligo to Collooney Junction and Ennis to Limerick lines are in good order and in everyday use. Upgrading the intervening 114miles (185kms) between Ennis and Collooney Junction to include track, relaying, resignalling, level crossing automation, station refurbishment and the provision of 15 diesel multiple unit (D.M.U.) railcars to provide commuter services into Sligo, Galway and Limerick, as well as intercity services, will cost a mere euro230 million. This contrasts dramatically with the National Roads Authority figure of euro8m per km. for roads and shows the equivalent cost of 185 kms of National Primary road would be euro1,480 million. The West on Track costings are based on Iarnród Éireann figures for line renewal over the last three years, Booz Allen Hamilton cost projections in the S.R.R. and Halcrow's cost projections in the South Sligo Rapid Transit report.

Clearly then, the Western Rail Corridor represents excellent value to the exchequer and taxpayer. The entire right of way is intact and in Iarnród Éireann ownership. With the impending completion of radial route relaying, under the "On Track 2000" programme, the permanent way division of Iarnród Éireann (with a reputation for delivering on, or ahead of time and under budget) would have 3 years full employment on the WRC project.

More than 90% of the world's manufactured goods, moving by sea, are shipped in containers. We, in Ireland, export 90% of what we produce. A state of the art container gantry was erected in Sligo goods yard, a mere 10 years ago but is under-utilised. Yet, Sligo and Mayo alone, export an average of 70 forty-foot containers each weekday. For example, the output of Ballina Beverages would fill a train every day. The Western Rail Corridor offers these and other industries on the western seaboard a direct, fast and efficient route to move goods to the market place on the continent, via the container port of Waterford.

Clearly, a revitalised WRC would help make the western seaboard a more attractive place for companies to develop their business and attract more jobs and investment to the region. In addition, by giving container freight an alternative route to Waterford, the WRC would significantly ease the existing rail congestion in Dublin. In June Coillte returned to the railway and is currently providing timber for up to five trains a week to Waterford from Sligo, Ballina and Westport - this traffic will increase and could be routed directly via the WRC. In terms of tourism potential, the WRC could provide tourists with an opportunity to avail of safe, inexpensive and comfortable travel throughout the West. Such a variety of traffic, together with commuters, students and business people points clearly the potential of the WRC. However, it must be given a chance.

West On Track is about promoting what can be done as distinct from what can't. The WRC is a West of Ireland issue, not a political one, but it will take a political decision to re-open it. From the beginning, we have set out to inform, enable and empower the people to take ownership of their railway and they have responded massively. The people have clearly seen that the WRC would put sustainable shape on the National Spatial Strategy regionally, while consolidating the rail network nationally. So, instead of mothballing, we advocate "asset sweating" i.e. maximising the use of every railway in the country.

As the IDA has repeatedly pointed out, to frontload development in the West, infrastructure must first be put in place. The cost is modest when contrasted with the euro239 million price tag of the Drogheda Bypass, euro100 million a mile for the Dublin Metro or euro50 million a mile for the Luas. We cannot afford to give our children the legacy of another Harcourt St. line debacle, by failing to act now. The united voice of the West must finally be heard. If it is, then the dream will become a reality.

©Peter Bowen Walsh / West on Track








| Maps | About WOT | Latest News | Archive | History | Links |
| Photo Gallery| Burma Road Gallery 1981|
| Inspection of the Western Rail Corridor
Visit Our YouTube Channel
WOT facebook

Further Information Email rail @ westontrack.com

Website sponsored by Mayo Ireland Ltd

Visit the Mayo Ireland website for up to date information on County Mayo.