Minister for Transport
Séamus Brennan TD launches major new study of the
Western Rail Corridor
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
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
- 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
- There is a large potential customer market across the
West and Mid-West, including daily commuters,
day-trippers, students and health-related
- There is significant freight potential on the
- The total capital costs of the WRC will be
- 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.
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
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
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
Stage 2: Claremorris-Tuam and double-tracking of
Oranmore-Galway. This stage will link Galway to Knock
PHASE 2: January 2006 - December 2007
Charlestown-Collooney, Double tracking of
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
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
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
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
A joint partnership group should be established involving
all the stakeholders to ensure the maximum use of the
service and value to the state.