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Plea for railtrack upgrade

Clare Champion - Friday 5th November 2004

by Dan Danaher

The economic development of Clare is being hindered by the delay in re-opening the Western Rail Corridor with the proposed spur connection to Shannon Airport.

That's according to Clare County Councillor, Brian Meaney, who is becoming increasingly frustrated with the Government's procrastination of the upgrading on the Ennis to Athenry line. His latest blistering attack on the Government and Iarnród Éireann coincides with a recent acknowledgement from the rail company the track north of Ennis was no longer capable of handling traffic due to the age and condition of the physical infrastructure.

This startling admission was contained in a reply to a recent request in a Council motion for a detailed account of the maintenance schedule to retain the condition of this route and halt any further neglect.

Councillor Meaney blames political indifference on the closure of a major section of strategic infrastructure which is vital to the development of the Mid-West. He estimates the loss of a rail track adds up to forty heavy goods vehicles on to the already congested Clare roads.

"The western rail corridor with a link to the airport is for the development of Shannon Airport and the region it serves. "The management of Iarnród Eireann is required to maintain the permanent way along its rail lines," he says. However, a company spokesman argues that regardless of any maintenance work, the Ennis to Athenry line will require major track upgrading to facilitate the re-opening of rail services. "It is subject to an annual inspection which ensures that there is no encroachment on the line from other landowners while hedges are cut back on the route.

"Given that any reopening of the line would require major capital funding, and that no such capital funding is currently available, it would be irresponsible to divert resources from the maintenance of the operating network to a route which may or may not open in the future," the spokesman adds.

Meanwhile in an interview with the current edition of Rail magazine, company chief executive officer, Joe Meagher states for the first time he would like to see the railway developed in stages and acknowledges the re-opening of the Ennis to Athenry section is now desirable.








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