Fight For Future Of Western Rail Corridor Gets Heated

The future of the Western Rail Corridor is in turmoil after it was revealed that the government are not seeking TEN-T funding.

Abandoned Swinford railway station platform, looking toward Charlestown.

The battle for the future for the western rail corridor entered a new chapter this month with the two sides involved – West on Track and Sligo Mayo Greenway, declaring their hopes for the route.

West on track celebrated 10 years since their establishment by pointing to the success of the Limerick – Galway rail route and the future viability of the railway line, which they envisage will eventually run all the way to Co Sligo. However the Sligo Mayo action group, last week published a rebuttal to those aspirations, claiming that the government’s decision not to apply for EU funding for the project spelled an end to it.

On Saturday May 11th, members of West on Track campaign from across the region attended a special seminar in the Ard Ri hotel in Tuam to mark 10 years of the campaign.

Members viewed a presentation on the potential of the Tuam-Galway commuter rail link and heard that Oranmore railway station which is part of phase 1 of the western rail corridor project is expected to open in July, with Crusheen station to follow in 2014. They also heard from Howard Knott of the Irish exporters association who said the reinstated western rail corridor would play a major role in the development of rail freight business in Ireland,

He said that reconnecting ports such as Waterford and Foynes to a growing rail network would provide the most efficient method of moving goods around the country, both in terms of import and export.

The day before that meeting in Tuam, Sligo Mayo Greenway attempted to expose what they saw as the government’s own ambivalence to the project.

Artist view of Swinford railway station with greenway

According to the action group, when west on track lobbied the EU committee on petitions about discrimination against the west and north west, they were told that the Irish government had not included the western rail corridor in their request for structural funds from the EU.

Brendan Quinn of the Sligo Mayo Greenway campaign said: “We have only just become aware of the commision reply to the complaint lodged by west on track, which was published in February but only recently unearthed by a poster on our facebook page.”

“The fact our government has not requested the inclusion of any part of the western rail corridor as an element for consideration for EU structural funding would seem to indicate that the government has no interest in pursuing the so called western rail corridor project at any time in the future.”

The Greenway campaigners highlighted a section of the EU committee response as evidence of this lack of interest;

“The [EU] Commission confirms that the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has provided – and continues to provide – significant financial assistance for investment in – Ireland’s transport infrastructure.”

“The commission observes that the Irish authorities have not requested the inclusion of  (all, or part of) the western rail corridor as an element for consideration during the preparation of the revision of the Ten-T guidelines.”

“Furthermore, the commission understands that there are no plans on the part of the Irish government to develop a new rail link between Sligo and Derry and consequently the question of EU funding during the present or future structural fund programming periods, appears unlikely to arise.”

Artist view Swinford to Charlestown greenway

Sligo Mayo Greenway are now calling on the department of transport to consider other uses of the publicly owned corridor of land which form the western rail corridor.

“The Sligo Mayo Greenway campaign supports the idea of a Greenway along the route and to use the route as an information superhighway with a fibre optic cabling infrastructure to improve communications,” said Mr Quinn.

“The Sligo Mayo Greenway would be a huge success just as the Great Western Greenway has been from Newport to Mulranny. We hope to see these two Greenway’s in the west of Ireland ultamatly linked together as part of the national cycle network.”

However, Mr Quinn did add; “We’re not against the Western Rail Corridor, but we are against these railway track being idle for the next 30 years. Put a Greenway on it now and it protects the route forever.”

This article appeared in the Sligo Weekender on 26th May 2013

Sligo weekender 26th May 2013

Sligo weekender 26th May 2013