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Ennis Line Keeps Rail Plan on Track

The Irish Times - 27th December 2004

The campaign to re-open the Western Rail Corridor has received a boost, with Iarnród Éireann confirming that passenger numbers on its restored Ennis-Limerick railway line "has exceeded expectations" in the first year of operation. The 24-mile Ennis-Limerick line was originally part of the Western Rail Corridor between Sligo and Cork that was closed in 1976. For years, a skeleton service existed, with speed restrictions of 5 mph., before Iarnród Éireann launched a new commuter Ennis-Limerick service last December after investing euro13 million on the line.

Iarnród Éireann's mid-west business development manager, Mr Jim Gallivan, said that usage of the service and revenues generated "has exceeded expectations". Mr Gallivan said that there has been a 40 per cent increase in Intercity journeys out of Ennis, with a 30 per cent increase in Intercity journeys into the town. Underlining the performance of the commuter service, it is estimated that 54,000 commuting car journeys were taken off the N18 road linking Ennis and Limerick during the year.

The only blip in the newly-restored rail service occurred during the visit of US President George W. Bush to Clare last June. A truck using a diverted route, due to road closures on security grounds, damaged a rail-bridge, resulting in the structure having to be replaced at a cost of euro800,000.

Mr. Gallivan said: "There was a clamour from people for the service and they have responded with their feet by using the service. As a result of the success of the new service, Iarnród Éireann has sought and secured planning permission for the upgrading of Ennis train station, with work expected to begin next year on an additional 180 car-parking spaces for the station. Mr Gallivan said that it would seem to be "a logical step" now to connect the three major cities. along the western corridor - Cork, Limerick and Galway - by rail by upgrading the Ennis-Galway line.

The director of the Galway County Development Board, Mr. Frank Dawson, said that the restored Limerick-Ennis Iarnród Éireann line "is the first piece of the Western Rail Corridor to be put in place".

Mr. Dawson is a member of a ministerial working group that is due to report to the Minister for Transport, Mr. Cullen, on future options for the Western Rail Corridor in February.

Mr. Dawson said: "The figures from the Ennis-Limerick line will feed into our final report. They are very encouraging. The figures are tangible evidence that further expenditure on the line can be justified. I believe that 2005 will be the year when positive decisions for the Western Rail Corridor will be made."

Mr. Gallivan stated that it would take 12 months' work to upgrade the existing Galway-Ennis line. With the Ennis-Limerick upgrade costing euro13 million, an upgrading of the Ennis-Galway line would cost in excess of euro21 million.








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