Tuam Herald Article by Tony Galvin 1st August 2013

A call has been made for government to show some clear direction to local authorities on the issue of creating greenway walking and cycling paths along the closed sections of railway line.

The call is being made by the Tuam Greenway Group, who are actively campaigning to have the section of closed railway between Tuam and Claremorris converted for recreational use, and it comes in the wake of a statement by Transport minister Leo Varadker to a Sligo Greenway Campaign that the government has no plans to extend the western rail corridor and so link Tuam to the national network.

In addition, junior minister Alan Kelly, who has responsibility for sustainable transport, has voiced support for a Greenway project on the Claremorris – Collooney section of track and stated that he could not see any progress being made on the rail corridor proposal for at least 10 years.

Alan Mc Grath of the Tuam Greenway group, told the Tuam Herald that they had argued all along that a Greenway could be put in place on a temporary basis.

“Minister Kelly has made it clear there would be little or nothing done with the rail proposal for at least a decade. What effectly means is nothing at all will be done with the line during this period, if ever. We feel its better to use it than let it lie idle and some support and encouragement from the government and the minister involved would pave the way for bodies such as Galway Co Co to get behind our Greenway project”, he said.

There was controversy over the Tuam Greenway proposal when it was excluded from a county council plan outlining outdoor recreational plans for the county. The council argued it was excluded because it clashed with official policy, which is to support the western rail corridor campaign. The Tuam group took issue with this, arguing they are not anti-rail but in favour of putting the track to recreational use and that if and when the rail corridor were to get the go-ahead, the line could be handed back.

However, supporters of the rail plan argued that if the line were to be converted into a Greenway, this would spell the end of hopes of linking a rail corridor from Sligo to Limerick, via Tuam.

Sligo based Greenway campaigner Brendan Quinn has released a communication from Minister Varadkar indicating the the government had mothballed the western rail project and that it is unlikely there will be any advancement in this regard for the foreseeable future. The minister had also indicated his support for Greenway projects. Mr Quinn has also had communications with Minister Kelly, who has told him he sees no problem with greenway development north of Claremorris.

Such development would be anathema to those campaigning for the re-opening of the rail link, in particular the west on track group. Minister Kelly’s indication that it would be at least 10 years before any progress can be made on the project is bound to set alarm bells ringing among campaigners who felt they were close to achieving their goal on several occasions in the past.

Brendan Quinn argues that while there is little or no hope of getting funding for rail in the current economic climate, there is EU funding available for Greenway projects and he is calling on politicians and community groups to accept the reality of the situation and get behind the greenway projects in their area’s.

Tuam Herald by Tony Galvin