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Council continues to back WRC despite EY report


LOOKING TO THE FUTURE  Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Richard Finn.

West-on-Track says its expert group will publish its own report in March

Anton McNulty

MAYO County Council has reiterated its support for the redevelopment of the Western Rail Corridor (WRC) despite an Independent report concluding it would not provide value for money.
Last month, the long awaited financial and economic appraisal of the WRC, carried out by the accountancy firm, EY, found that the WRC from Athenry to Claremorris would not provide value for money and would do little to counter traffic congestion.
The report has been described as ‘fundamentally flawed’ and ‘riddled with inaccuracies’ by West-on-Track, who said that an expert working group has begun work on an alternative appraisal of the project and already found hundreds of errors in the report.
At yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council, councillors reiterated their support for the redevelopment of the WRC from Athenry to Claremorris and onto Sligo.
Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Richard Finn, said the proposal to develop the line should not be abandoned despite the negative EY report, as it was too important to the economic benefits of the county.
“We have to look to the future and the social and economic benefits of a proposed line and in this day and age such an important piece of infrastructure cannot be allowed to fall away and disfigured into something else. We should be looking at the broader picture in relation to the line from Athenry to Sligo,” he said.
Cllr Finn’s proposal to support the WRC was seconded by Cllr Mark Duffy who said that  having read the EY report, he claimed it was not ‘fit for purpose’, and the line cannot be developed as a greenway.
“We need to build the infrastructure for the future to attract people back here to work and not just facilitate people living in Mayo at the moment. We can still create greenways but we cannot use the existing track which is in public ownership. If we put a greenway on those tracks it will be like cycling on the graves of rural Ireland,” he said.

Feasibility study
Swinford-based councillor Michael Smyth proposed that the council undertake a feasibility study to review the extension of the WRC in light of the EY report. He said the question has to be asked about the possibility of developing a greenway along a high speed railway.
“I would love to see the rail corridor used for the type of commercial activities proposed but I would also like to see a greenway considered and I think it is possible to do both,” he said while adding that there has to be joint up thinking between the local authorities in Galway, Mayo and Sligo over what they should do with the line.
West-on-Track, who have advocated the redevelopment of the WRC, confirmed its expert working group report is expected to be published in March.
“A critical analysis of the recent EY review of the Western Rail Corridor, which was published in January, has revealed hundreds of errors and finds that potential capital costs for the project were more than doubled, while many of the terms of reference were either ignored or received only the most cursory treatment.
“The analysis was carried out by a group of experts with wide experience in rail engineering, economic analysis, regional development strategy, financial analysis, business, and social issues for the rail advocacy group West-on-Track.
“The errors and omissions in the EY analysis are of an extremely serious nature, and if left unchallenged, will risk depriving the west of significant monetised and non-monetised benefits of a potentially transformative magnitude,” a West-on-Track spokesperson said.