Railway 'may be vital for
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
The latest report is a response to a request from
Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Eamon
WDC chief executive Lisa McAllister welcomed moves to
reopen strategic sections of the rail line between Sligo and
"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