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Fine Gael calls for Western Rail Corridor to be re-openend

Press Release
Tuesday 4th November 2003

Corridor is key element of balanced development

Fine Gael Transport spokesperson Denis Naughten TD today (Monday) called on the Government to re-open the Western Rail Corridor because it is essential for balanced regional development and the National Spatial Strategy.

Speaking in Kiltimagh, Co Mayo, Deputy Naughten said 'getting this Line re-opened in the immediate future is a priority for Fine Gael in Government, and in the interim we intend to pursue Transport Minister Seamus Brennan on this key infrastructural development'.

Deputy Naughten was visiting a section of the Western Rail Corridor with Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny TD and Mayo Senator Jim Higgins.

"The EU's recent announcement that it wants to prioritise a 'Motorway of the Sea' in order to increase maritime freight traffic between the Irish Sea and the Iberian Peninsula strengthens the case for supporting rail freight and reopening the Western Rail Corridor.

"The Western Rail Corridor has the potential to connect the cities, towns and many rural communities along its route to international markets by using ports such as Rosslare and Waterford, in line with the EU proposal. These ports are currently serviced by substandard roads.

"If the Western Rail Corridor was up and running, job creation and population growth in rural areas would be much more feasible. The existing line could be re-opened relatively easily if the Government took the initiative and entered into a Public Private Partnership to develop commuter services for towns and cities along the route. It is then quite feasible to introduce other services along the rest of the corridor.

"This would be a cost-effective investment because thousands of miles of rail are currently lying unused around the country. Instead of being allowed to rust away, this rail could be used to reopen the Western Rail Corridor. Much of the jointed rail left behind after upgrading the Intercity lines could be laid on the Western Rail Corridor, thereby upgrading the line at a fraction of the current proposed cost.

"In tandem, Iarnrod Éireann could introduce an efficient rail service along the length of the line by leasing rail carriages (such as diesel multiple units) rather than purchasing them, in order to provide Intercity and commuter services.

"The Government should also immediately prioritise rail investment to the ports of Rosslare, Waterford and Foynes, as well as providing a subvention for rail freight.

"Fine Gael also believes that the development of key infrastructure like the Western Rail Corridor should not have to depend on having an existing population along the route. Instead, the Western Rail Corridor would do a great deal to improve balanced regional development by improving access between rural areas, towns and cities along the Western Seaboard. If the rail system was properly managed, it would boost economic growth in rural Ireland, and help alleviate the pressures on our capital.

"The Western Rail Corridor should be used to stimulate development in this area, rather than follow development into the area. But the typical Government response is to wait until development nodes and growth areas along the Western Corridor have become established before it will even consider the rail link.

"If Transport Minister Seamus Brennan is serious about decentralisation and balanced regional development as outlined in the Spatial Strategy, he must kick-start the process by providing the investment.

"The key steps, which must be immediately taken by the Minister for Transport, are:

  • Invest in the western rail line to make the line viable (a key objective of EU transport policy)
  • Develop commuter services to Sligo, Galway and Limerick and the Mayo Link between Ballina, Castlebar and Westport
  • Expand the network to include Knock and Shannon Airports, ensuring their future viability following the Government's decision to abandon the Shannon stopover
  • Immediately introduce Arrow type railcars (diesel multiple units) on to the Western Rail Corridor
  • Use tax credits to encourage commuters to use the public transport system
  • Provide timetables that will allow an interconnector service in the region
  • Provide a bus shuttle service at all depots to take passengers to and from railway stations
  • Introduce a structured subsidy to encourage the use of rail freight, which will ease the pressure on the region's sub-standard road network

"A vibrant region in the modern age needs a proper road and rail infrastructure to attract and compete at the top level, and to encourage employment and investment to its area. A trade-off of one in favour of the other is not an option, even in this time of economic uncertainty."








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