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Don’t leave Western Railway Corridor “rot for 40 years” pleads TD, Minister says strategic importance previously underestimated

— Minister says route could have strategic importance as railway which has not been looked at in previous reviews.

A Galway TD has asked the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, to “finally make a decision to build a railway with a greenway alongside it or to build a greenway”.

Galway TD Ciarán Cannon (FG) said: “It is utterly shameful that the western rail corridor connecting Athenry, Tuam, Milltown and, ultimately, Enniskillen, if it is extended all of the way, a vital piece of public infrastructure, has been left to rot for the past 40 years. It is bringing no economic benefit whatsoever to the west of Ireland and to my constituency.”

He made the comments in a Dail debate on the railway network on March 3.

“What we simply need to do here is to make a decision,” said Deputy Cannon. “Every report that has been published over the past decade has concluded that there is no economic case to be made for the reopening of any rail service on that line. The Minister’s Department arrived at the same conclusions. Irish Rail published a report last July outlining its rail freight strategy for the next 20 years to the year 2040 and there was not one single word about the western rail corridor.”

He added: “I ask that the Minister finally make a decision to build a railway with a greenway alongside it or to build a greenway. I ask also that the Minister, who has done extraordinary work in this area of active transport, not to leave this line to rot for another 40 years.”

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said: “When it comes to the north west and the western rail corridor, as Deputy Cannon said it could potentially run up to Sligo or Enniskillen. Again, that is a very long-term prospect.”

He said: “Once one goes north of Claremorris, the line is not extant. Everyone is agreed that the section north towards Collooney and Sligo is highly unlikely in the immediate future to be considered for rail services. I believe there is broad agreement that it should be a greenway, except I am not certain whether Mayo County Council, Galway County Council and Sligo County Council are in agreement as to how and where that route should be devised and designed.”

“From my perspective, that is one of the biggest obstacles to providing a greenway in that area. The section from Claremorris to Athenry is a different issue,” said Ryan. “From Claremorris one can join onto the existing rail network towards Ballina or Westport. There is a strategic question in a much wider national context which the original rail reviews did not look at in that section of line. If one looks at it in a narrow context, is there is a demand for commuting from Claremorris or Tuam into Galway on rail? The answer is clearly ‘No’, as Joint Assistance to Support Projects in the European Regions, JASPERS,” said.

He added: “However, is it potentially a part of a strategic western rail corridor which extends all the way from Ballina down the west coast through Limerick towards Waterford? That is a different question which neither JASPERS nor anybody else has asked yet and which the strategic rail review is now looking at.”

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Cian Ginty

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