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Government called on to prioritise Western rail link opening

Irish Times
Wednesday 5th November 2003

by Aine Ryan

The Labour Party leader, Mr Pat Rabbitte, and the Fine Gael spokesman on transport, Mr Denis Naughten, have called on the Government to prioritise the reopening of the Western Rail Corridor (WRC).

They pledged support for the corridor at separate meetings in Claremorris and Kiltimagh with representatives of the community-based campaign West On Track, which claims that the rail line between Sligo and Limerick can be reopened at a cost of euro215 million.

Urging the Minister for Transport, Mr Brennan, to act while the National Development Plan (NDP) is still in the process of being implemented, Mr Rabbitte said: "The recent revelations in the mid-term review of the NDP about the massive underspend in the Border-Midlands-Western (BMW) region come as a wake-up call to us all.

"The reopening of the Western Rail Corridor, on a phased basis, provides a gilt-edged opportunity for Government to begin to address the extraordinary imbalance in regional development and to give a vote of confidence to the economic futures of towns and communities from Sligo to Limerick."

Mr Rabbitte was accompanied to the meeting by the Galway TD, Mr Michael D. Higgins.

According to Mr Higgins, the west was as entitled to modern infrastructure as any other part of the country, and it was for this reason, he said, that "the Labour Party will unequivocally support, at both local and national levels, the massive community campaign being co-ordinated by West On Track".

At the halfway stage of the NDP 2000-2006, euro154 million of a projected euro476.9 million had been spent in the BMW region on public transport infrastructural development.

"This dramatic underspend means that there is euro322 million earmarked to be spent in the next three years, which leaves the door wide open for government to spend on the WRC," said Father Micheál MacGréil, a member of the Economic and Social Infrastructure Operational Programme (ESIOP) monitoring committee.

The development of the rail corridor would greatly contribute to balanced regional development and, while boosting economic growth in rural Ireland, would alleviate the pressures on the capital, according to Mr Naughten.

"The WRC 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," said Mr Naughten.








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