Speech by Pat the Cope Gallagher, T.D., Minister of State for Transport at the launch of the Cross Border Railway Cluster and the commencement of the extension of the facility at Fintown Railway on 6th October 2006 at 2 P.M.
I am absolutely delighted to have been invited to officially launch the Cross Border Railway Cluster project here at Fintown Railway and to herald a new era of heritage railway for Fintown.
This particular project will be part financed by the European Union, through the Interreg IIIA Programme, which is managed by the ICBAN Partnership for the Special EU Programmes Body. This contribution will go a long way towards its aim to substantially improve the tourism project though extensive refurbishment and marketing initiatives.
The Cross Border Railway Cluster comprises of four heritage Railway companies;
Comhlacht Traenach na Gaeltachta Láir Teo, who I would especially like to commend for taking the lead in this project and for their work on improving cross border cooperation,
Downpatrick and Ard Glass Railway Company, Co Down,
The Cavan Leitrim Railway Company Ltd,
and the Giants Causeway and Bushmills Railway, Co. Antrim.
I especially would like to welcome the appointment of Mr. Martin McAndrew as manager for the project over the next seventeen months, and he will play a major role in coordinating the marketing activities of the railway tourism sector.
I am particularly pleased to see that the proposed works will include extending the track by 600 metres and the refurbishment of the rolling stock here at Fintown, should guarantee the future of the Fintown railway from a safety perspective. The Downpatrick Railway Company will carry out restoration for their steam engine; the Cavan Leitrim Railway Company will also have similar works carried out to their steam engine and the Giants Causeway Bushmills Railway will carry out refurbishment on their coaches.
This project aims to harness the tourism potential of heritage railways by the establishment of a cross border cluster and will provide visitors with an interactive and "live" experience of railways, linking them directly to their cultural heritage. It is pleasing to learn that this initiative should increase the number of visitors by 10% over the next three years.
The result of the funding by the European Union through the Interreg IIIA Programme will develop the Cross Border Railway Cluster into a quality and safe tourism product, and will improve cross border collaboration and networking between the partners, and with personnel involved in other tourist attractions in the area. The visual improvement to the tracks and to the trains and other amenities will be clearly evident as a result of the work which is been carried out on the Railway Tracks, Amenities and rolling stock in all four railways.
I want to conclude by thanking everyone involved in the cluster for affording me the opportunity to launch the Cross Border Railway Cluster. This project when completed will, I have no doubt, be yet another impressive example of what can be achieved with commitment, vision and co-operation between cross border bodies and I look forward to watching it's progress over the coming months.
I take this opportunity to than Comhlacht Traenach na Gaeltachta Lair, its chairman Oliver McDevitt and all of the committee members over the years who have since the early '90's given so much of their voluntary time to the provision of this important touristic product. Without their commitment and dedication little or no advance could have been made.
I also take the opportunity to pay tribute to all of the State Agencies Udaras na Gaeltachta, FAS, MFG & Clar - who have worked closely with Comhlacht Traenach over the years and provided very necessary support by way of funding and in many other ways.