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Rail Review ‘must commit to Galway-Mayo train link’

A clearer commitment is needed in the All-Island Strategic Rail Review to reinstate the Athenry to Claremorris line for both passengers and freight, according to a submission by Galway West Fianna Fáil TD, Éamon Ó Cuív.

In his submission to the Rail Review, which was published earlier this summer, the former Minister said that it was important to ensure that important transport link between the two centres in Galway and Mayo opened simultaneously for both freight and passengers.

He added that to only open this line for one type of traffic [freight] would be to ‘underutilise a vital and valuable asset’ while Deputy Ó Cuív also called for the restoration of the old Claremorris to Collooney [Sligo] line.

Deputy Ó Cuív said that another omission which needed correction was the absence of proposals for intermediate stations on the commuter line between Athenry and Galway.

“These intermediate stations should be provided at locations such as Roscam (residential); Ballyloughane (to serve residential, Atlantic Technological University, formerly GMIT); the Ballybrit and Parkmore Business Estates; and Renmore (residential),” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

He also appealed for greater urgency and less delays in implementing the policy statements as any hold-ups in projects inevitably meant increased costs as the years passed.

“One thing that has become very apparent over the last 30 years is that the greatest inflator of infrastructure costs is delay and that all infrastructure can look expensive in the short-term.

“For example, we can look at motorways built in this State during the 2000-2012 period which looked expensive at the time and now look very good value for money compared to today’s prices for doing the same thing,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

The former Minister also pointed out in his submission to the Rail Strategy, that there were ‘quick wins’ to be achieved with a number of projects which could be completed within a short-term framework.

“These are likely to be projects such as building new stations, upgrading line speeds, eliminating un-signalled crossings – both road and farm crossings – by either the provision of under/over passes or standard railway barriers and lights,” he pointed out in his submission.

Deputy Ó Cuív also stated that there were very strong grounds for the reinstating of the Sligo to Galway link based on a number of economic and infrastructural factors with such a rail link being only a 10-minute shuttle bus ride away from the growing international airport of Knock.

“Also not mentioned is that Galway University Hospital is the regional hub for many specialist medical services in the whole of Connacht and Donegal.

“In view of the false premise for the process followed here, the recommendation to not include the Claremorris to Collooney line, should be totally reviewed and reinstated along with the Athenry to Claremorris link.

“This should be done as a short-term intervention to be completed by 2030 as a comprehensive freight and passenger re-opening in support of the role of Sligo in the NPF (National Planning Framework) and the development of the Atlantic Corridor,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

He added that in general, he welcomed the publication of the Rail Review on the basis that it would be an important step in ensuring adequate rail services for both North and South.

“There is no doubt that its full implementation would reduce the carbon footprint across the island. The quicker the implementation the quicker the savings in the carbon footprint,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.