"Green light for the phased re-opening"
Today (Tuesday 26 September, 2006) Transport Minister, Martin Cullen, TD announced that the Government has approved funding for Iarnród Éireann to proceed with the development of the first phase of the Western Rail Corridor. Minister Cullen has requested Iarnród Éireann to proceed with the detailed planning and design of the project. In addition, the Government has also approved funding for the development of phase 2 of the Corridor between Athenry and Tuam, subject to completion by Irish Rail a fuller appraisal of this section, which is scheduled for completion by 2011 under Transport 21.
Making the announcement, Minister Cullen said: "The Western Rail Corridor will have immense social and economic benefits for the region and will promote balanced development across the country. In the spirit of the Transport 21 programme, it will play a major role in connecting communities and promoting prosperity not only in Clare, Galway and Mayo but right through Connacht and Munster."
Minister Cullen has instructed Iarnród Eireann to proceed immediately with the detailed planning and design of the project. Today's announcement gives Iarnród Éireann the go-ahead to commence line clearance work, undertake detailed design including level crossing survey work, enter into discussions with land owners and local authorities, and commence detailed design of bridges and the signalling scheme on the the Ennis to Athenry section. The physical track renewal is due to commence next year and is expected to be completed in 2008.
Minister Cullen said: "The re-instatement of the Ennis to Athenry section of the line will allow the introduction of scheduled train services between Limerick and Galway, the enhancement of existing commuter services between Ennis and Limerick and the development of the Galway Commuter Rail service between Galway and Athenry. Galway commuter services from Tuam will subsequently be developed under phase 2 of the project.
"This decision gives effect to the Government commitment under Transport 21 and the new Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, to reopen the Western Rail Corridor on a phased basis with the Ennis to Athenry section due to be completed in 2008, the Athenry to Tuam section in 2011, the Tuam to Claremorris section in 2014. The line from Claremorris to Collooney is being preserved."
The Minister said that the phased implementation was decided on the basis of the recommendations of the Report by the Expert Working Group on the Western Rail Corridor chaired by Mr Pat McCann. "The heaviest demand for services is currently on the Ennis Athenry Tuam sections of the Corridor, so these sections will be developed first. In the meantime, it is expected that Galway and Mayo County Councils will develop their land-use strategies in order to generate the critical mass necessary to support the completion of the corridor within the Transport 21 timeframes", added the Minister.
The construction work will involve the upgrading of 36 miles of track and associated infrastructure, the elimination of 125 farm/accommodation crossings and the provision of five stations at Gort, Ardrahan and Craughwell (on the EnnisAthenry line), Sixmilebridge (on the LimerickEnnis line) and Oranmore (on the AthenryGalway line). The track and signalling will be capable of accommodating both freight and passenger trains. Seven services a day in each direction are proposed between Limerick and Galway.
Veronica Scanlan at (01) 6041087 or 087 6430622