Ennis Line Keeps Rail Plan
The Irish Times - 27th
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
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
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