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West=On=Track - News

Railway 'may be vital for small towns'

The Examiner
December 15th 2003

by Donal Hickey

THE re-opening of some disused railway lines could be a key to the future of many small towns in the West of Ireland, according to a report published today.

As well as Knock Airport, the railways could play a major part in the growth of essential infrastructure, according to the Western Development Commission (WDC) report which profiles 20 towns as locations for investment.

With more than 75% of the population of the western region living in towns of less than 5,000, the WDC highlights the need to bring inward investment to smaller towns as a means of improving the region's economy.

Since the WDC published Blueprint for Investing in the West in 1999, it has been undertaking research and developmental work on the role of small towns and their interaction with rural areas and with National Spatial Strategy (NSS) designated hubs and gateways.

It has also been looking at the towns' suitability for State decentralisation and commercial investment, with Knock Airport being a pivotal access point to the whole region.

The latest report is a response to a request from Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Eamon Ó Cúiv.

WDC chief executive Lisa McAllister welcomed moves to reopen strategic sections of the rail line between Sligo and Ennis.

"If you take into consideration the towns selected for decentralisation together with the investment stated in the NSS and recent Government announcement, we have an excellent opportunity to re-examine the practicability of deploying funds to these key infrastructural projects," she said.

"The relocation of the Government department in Knock will increase demand for public transport and direct access, in particular, to Dublin."

This could be facilitated by re-opening the Charlestown to Claremorris section of the rail network, thereby linking Knock/Charlestown to the capital in the short term, while strategically completing part of the Western Rail Corridor.








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