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West=On=Track - News

Iarnród Éireann supports western rail service

Clare Champion - Friday 5th November 2004

by Joe O'Muircheartaigh

Iarnród Éireann is backing the re-opening of the Western Rail Corridor and says the first stage of the development should be the re-opening of the Ennis to Athenry section of the line.

Iarnród Éireann chief executive Joe Meagher claims the project will become a reality if the will is there and says the re-opening of the line which has been closed for nearly 30 years will be a political decision.

"Sometimes when we are seen to prioritise things and it is not on our list, it is perceived that we are against it, which isn't the case," Mr. Meagher said.

"We are all railway people and we want to see the railway developed but we have to do it in stages. If the local authorities along the WRC get their act together, which I'm sure they will, the case will be made," he added.

Welcoming Mr. Meagher's comments, a spokesman for West on Track said that it was becoming increasingly clear that Iarnród Éireann would be prepared to develop the Western Rail Corridor provided the necessary funding is made available by the Government.

"Mr. Meagher is right to say that the re-opening of the WRC will be a political decision. Indeed it is clear that the whole issue will have a major influence on the next election in the West and Mid-West region," the West on Track spokesperson said.

"Given the massive underspend in the BMW region and the likely positive recommendation of the project by the Government-established Working Group due to report in December, there will no longer be any justifiable reason for not proceeding with the re-opening of the railway which links the three cities of Limerick, Galway and Sligo with Cork and Waterford," the spokesman added.

The campaign for re-opening the Western Corridor is being led by 'West on Track' and was started last year in the wake of the publication of the Government sponsored 'Strategic Rail Review' which placed Clare and the West of Ireland way down the priority list for the national network.

The independent report carried out by the Booz Allen Hamilton consultants group informed the Government that investment of up to ¤8.5 billion will be needed to provide Ireland with a modern reliable network.

Hopes held locally in Clare that the report would give priority to the creation of a western rail corridor from Sligo down to Cork were dashed. Instead priority was given to routes out of Dublin.

The report placed the upgrading of the Ennis to Limerick line, the re-opening of the Ennis/Athenry/Sligo line and the development of a spur line to Shannon near the bottom of the priority list for rail services.

The consultants put capital costs for the Western corridor project at ¤572 million, with annual operating costs of ¤49 million and a yearly infrastructure maintenance bill of ¤12 million. The rail corridor closed in 1976 when estimated annual losses of £250,000 prompted Coras Iompair Éireann to discontinue the Limerick to Claremorris line. The closure meant that to travel by rail from Galway to Limerick a commuter had take a train to Portarlington before transferring to the Limerick train.

Other advocates of re-opening the line include the Western Development Commission and the BMW Regional Assembly while a group of private investors in the Mid-West have put forward a proposal to run a spur line from the Ennis-Limerick route to serve Shannon Airport.

The Shannon Railway Company says that ¤60 million commuter rail link between Shannon, Limerick and Ennis "is a viable commercial entity" through a public-private partnership. The Shannon Railway Company is a consortium of investors led by Beaux Walk Properties, which is currently constructing a 150 million redevelopment of Shannon Town Centre.








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