Address to Green Party
conference by Colmán Ó Raghallaigh - West on
Galway March 12th
West on Track welcomes the strong support of the Green
Party for the WRC, particularly the commitment to making it
a pre-requisite for going into government.
As many of you will be aware, the WRC is the largest and
single most valuable unused piece of infrastructure in this
country. It has been conservatively valued at over euro400m.
Is it not a national scandal therefore, to have such a
valuable piece of infrastructure lying unused as people sit
in 2 hour traffic jams on their way into Galway? Or as
freight trains of timber or Coke carry the equivalent of 18
articulated lorries from the West to Waterford, four or five
times a week but are forced to go through the already
overcrowded Dublin region because the WRC is closed?
The development of the WRC is in line with the National
Spatial Strategy and links 3 gateways (Galway Limerick and
Sligo) and 4 hubs but that much-vaunted document will
continue to ring hollow while the grass grows on the railway
in Tuam station. Some hub town! Some strategy!!!
The current underspend on 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 recently published West on Track report on the WRC
shows that, if managed effectively, the WRC has the
potential to generate substantial income, while the annual
running costs of the WRC will be met by the income
There is also 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.
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 euro322m in the BMW
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
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 WRC and the manner in which it is handled over the
next few weeks will serve to define the real attitude of
central Government to infrastructural development in the
West. For, make no mistake about it, the issue of opening
the WRC goes way beyond the railway itself and extends to
the heart of the culture of systematic under-prioritisation
of western development, often characterised by the use of
such catch-phrases such as "critical mass" and "business
case" etc. No business cases will be by demanded for the
expenditure of euro600m on the Red Cow roundabout or the
The concept of Balanced Regional Development must now be
systematically put into practice in the West of Ireland. The
scandal of a euro322m underspend on public transport in the
BMW region must be addressed, not covered up or described as
"a mistake" as some people in the Department of Transport
and Iarnród Éireann have recently
What is needed now is a change of mind-set within the
Department and Iarnród Éireann. Senior
management in Iarnród Éireann must now take
ownership of the WRC concept and bring forward positive
proposals to Government for the immediate development of the
WRC. Those charged with the development of national policy
must come to the realisation that development in the West is
not some tiresome waste of time and public money, but rather
that an essential element of the development of Ireland's
national infrastructure, which will benefit East and West
alike. We are part of Ireland too and we are fed up waiting.
It is now time to see the colour of the Government's money.
In the words of the West on Track slogan the time has come
to "relieve the East and revive the West."
Should the long-awaited but mysteriously delayed new
working group on the WRC prove to be an attempt at stalling
or avoiding Governmental responsibility for the west, the
West on Track representatives would have no option but to
leave and bring the truth to the attention of the people. We
would like to think however that the working group will
prove to be the engine that will deliver the WRC. That is
our firm intention and our pledge to you and to the people
of the West is that we will not rest until that perfectly
reasonable demand has been delivered.
Go raibh maith agaibh.