Government called on to
prioritise Western rail link opening
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
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
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
"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.