Pic: Irish Rail
Extending the Western Rail Corridor from Athenry to Tuam, onto Claremorris and onto Sligo is a key objective of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA).
They published their Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) 2020-2032 last week, which the NWRA describe as ‘an overarching template for how counties in the NWRA area must develop over the next 20 years to cater for huge expected increases in population’.
Development plans in counties in the NWRA area must align with this RSES, which is described as a ‘high-level development framework for the Northern and Western Region that supports the implementation of the National Planning Framework’.
Regional Policy Objective 6.13 in the RSES states that ‘it shall be an objective to deliver the Athenry-Tuam-Claremorris-Sligo rail to an appropriate level of service and to a standard capable of facilitating passenger and freight transport’ and that ‘it shall be an objective to progress through pre-appraisal and early planning the extension of the railway from Athenry-Tuam-Claremorris-Sligo’.
“The Western Rail Corridor is of strategic importance as it represents a key enabling and sustainable transport infrastructure for the region that presents an opportunity to effect ‘transformational change’ in the realisation of the Atlantic Economic Corridor,” stated the NWRA in their report.
For many years there has been competing campaigns for the use of the old Western Rail Corridor line from Athenry to Sligo.
Many have advocated for the restoration of the railway along those tracks while others have argued the railway line should be used as a greenway.
However, in their RSES, the NWRA give backing to both and include the Quiet Man Greenway from Athenry to Collooney in Sligo as one of 12 greenways in their Regional Policy Objective 5.18.
That states: ‘the Regional Assembly shall collaborate with local authorities, Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland, DTTAS (Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport) and other relevant stakeholders in developing an integrated network of greenways across the region’s catchments’.
Campaigners for the Quiet Man greenway propose to run it on the old railway line but Cathaoirleach of the NWRA, Cllr Declan McDonnell, said they have no issue with the greenway progressing once it is not on the railway line.
“We’ve no objection to a greenway going on at the side of the railway line or anywhere else but we have a problem with it going on the railway line,” he told The Mayo News.
“If Sligo is going to grow, if Castlebar is going to grow, if Westport is going to grow, Galway is going to grow, Donegal is going to grow etc, we must have the infrastructure, it must have a railway line to get to Knock Airport. If you’re going to grow the region by a couple of hundred thousand, how are you going to facilitate that if you take away one of the infrastructures that could be such use?”
Pic: Irish Rail