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Minister for Transport Séamus Brennan TD launches major new study of the Western Rail Corridor

Press Release
Friday February 13th 2004

The Minister for Transport Mr. Séamus Brennan T.D. will today pay an official visit to five stations on the Western Rail Corridor. The tour will take in stations in counties Sligo, Mayo and Galway and the Minister is expected to make a significant announcement in Kiltimagh about the future of the western railway which is the largest piece of unused railway infrastructure in Ireland.

While at Kiltimagh Mr. Brennan will launch a major new study of the Western Rail Corridor, commissioned by West on Track which will show the enormous potential of the largest unused piece of railway infrastructure in Ireland.

The report which includes an engineering and photographic survey of the line from Colooney to Ennis gives a detailed analysis of potential passenger bases together with projected income and running costs and concludes that the WRC has the potential to cover its running costs if run imaginatively.

Among its main findings the report states:

  • The Western Rail Corridor (WRC) should be re-opened on a phased basis over a period of five years.
  • The development of the WRC in line with the National Spatial Strategy as it links 3 gateways and 4 hubs.
  • The development of the WRC should mirror the renewal of the N17 providing a complementary bi-modal Western Corridor which will give a new impetus to inter-regional trade and development.
  • The current underspend of euro322m in public transport projects in the BMW region at the half-way stage of the National Development Plan would be sufficient to cover once and a half times the capital costs of the entire WRC.
  • The capital costs of the WRC compare extremely favourably with other national infrastructural projects currently mooted or in progress e.g. The entire WRC including stations, signalling, level-crossings, track and rolling stock will cost the equivalent of 2.5 miles of the Metro, 5 miles of the Luas, half of the proposed Red Cow Roundabout works or the equivalent of the Drogheda by-pass.
  • During the period of the first half of the National Development Plan (2000-02) only 51% of the projected public transport funding was actually spent in the BMW region. In the South and East region the spend was 174% of forecast. This represents a shortfall of euro364m in the BMW region.
  • The construction of massive infrastructural projects in the capital should be complemented by significant projects in other regions in line with Government policy of balanced regional development.
  • If managed effectively, the WRC has the potential to generate substantial income.
  • The annual running costs of the WRC will be met by the income generated.
  • There is significant population growth along the route of the WRC and in centres connected to the WRC by rail.
  • There is a large potential customer market across the West and Mid-West, including daily commuters, day-trippers, students and health-related passengers.
  • There is significant freight potential on the WRC
  • The total capital costs of the WRC will be euro249.72m.
  • It is estimated that traffic congestion is costing the Galway economy alone euro300,000 per day or euro1.8m per week or euro93.6m per year.
  • The provision of good, planned infrastructure, providing the engine for sustainable development, must either run in tandem with development or precede it. (1.7)

The Western Region has the most intensive rail network outside Dublin with four mainline routes from Dublin and the untapped potential of the key north-south route between Sligo and Limerick in the WRC, with onward connections to Cork, Waterford and Rosslare.

The Government's prioritisation of a number of towns positioned on the Western Rail Corridor in the recent decentralisation announcement, has significantly enhanced their development potential, and justifies investment in the local rail network i.e. the WRC.

The restoration of the WRC will involve no disruption to existing services.

Following the completion of the 5-year national rail renewal programme IE currently has the spare capacity to construct 50 miles of new railway per annum (Source: Mr. Joe Meagher, IE to Oireachtas Joint Committee).

The entire route remains in the ownership of the state.

There are no significant engineering obstacles to the smooth upgrading of the line.

The permanent way section of IE is the most efficient and cost-effective element of the company. And is capable of laying an average of one mile of railway per week.

It is envisaged that the entire restoration work would be completed within 5 years.

The WRC should be re-opened in 2 phases, broken into stages as follows:

PHASE 1: Mid 2004 - December 2005

Stage 1: Claremorris-Charlestown & Tuam-Athenry. These works would proceed simultaneously bringing Tuam-Galway commuter services on stream within a year and linking Knock Airport to the National Rail Network. Development work on Oranmore station would also commence in this phase.

Stage 2: Claremorris-Tuam and double-tracking of Oranmore-Galway. This stage will link Galway to Knock International Airport.

PHASE 2: January 2006 - December 2007

Charlestown-Collooney, Double tracking of Athenry-Oranmore.


Although not currently the practice with Iarnród Éireann, the automation of all level crossings on the route is proposed and costed.

The plan envisages the re-opening of Oranmore station as a major park and ride facility and double tracking into Galway. A new commuter Halt is proposed for the Galway suburb Renmore.

The station at Charlestown should be developed and designated Charlestown/Knock International to cater for the rapid expansion of Knock International Airport. A regular Coach service should operate to the airport, a journey of 5-6 minutes. A spur to the Airport is not recommended in the short term.

The construction of a spur from Shannon Airport to the fully-restored WRC is recommended as a major additional infrastructural project which will benefit tourism and commerce throughout the Western region.

Many of the locations on the WRC will require halts rather than stations.

Tickets should be available at locations such as newsagents.

The attractive Taxsaver commuter package, now available to companies to encourage use of public transport among employees should be widely promoted.

Fare structures should reflect the existing norms in the Eastern region and the current practice of passengers in the West paying up to two to three times as much for equivalent rail journeys should cease.

Modern rolling stock (DMUs) capable of working in individual units or as combined trains should be made available for the new services and used to their full potential.

A joint partnership group should be established involving all the stakeholders to ensure the maximum use of the service and value to the state.








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