The need to reopen the Western Rail Corridor (WRC) from Athenry to Claremorris and beyond will be a big issue for the next general election if it is not delivered before then.
That’s according to former Fine Gael TD, Senator and MEP Jim Higgins who was speaking in the wake of the publication of the Bradley report in recent weeks.
Leading economist Dr John Bradley was commissioned by advocacy group West on Track to prepare a report on the viability of the WRC and comes against the backdrop of a government commissioned report by consultants EY and Mott McDonald.
The Bradley report has extensive differences from the EY report and is highly critical of the EY report.
It has a positive cost-benefit ratio whereas the EY report’s ratio was negative, with substantial differences in capital costs and journey times.
Higgins called on the four TDs in the county – Dara Calleary, Rose Conway-Walsh, Alan Dillon and Michael Ring to seize the opportunity the Bradley report presents to make a very strong case for reopening the railway.
“We need politically to put the shoulder to the wheel collectively whether you are Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin or Independent to make the Bradley report happen.
“I didn’t think I’d be coming out of retirement to express my opinion but I just feel so strongly that it would be wrong to stay silent on a matter of such importance,” the Ballyhaunis man said on Midwest Radio last Friday.
“Politicians at all levels need to realise this report is not going to go away. It is not going to whither on the vine as the department (of transport) officials would love. This is Knock Airport mark two. The Western Rail Corridor is going to be a political issue in the next election.
“If it is not delivered by next election, I am saying to people make it a political issue. When someone comes to your door looking for votes, say where do you stand on this issue because it makes absolute sense environmentally, socially and economically. It all adds up. It ticks every single box.”
He was also heavily critical of the initial report on the Western Rail Corridor by consultants Ernst and Young (EY) and Mott McDonald, and called on them to be brought before the Public Accounts Committee.
“Over my 34 years between Dáil, Seanad and European Parliament I’d have read dozens of reports on issues of importance but never have I seen a more pathetic, lazy and inaccurate report than the Ernst Young report commissioned by Iarnród Éireann and Minister Ryan’s department, the Department of Transport, on the WRC. On the flip side you have John Bradley’s report and seldom have I read a more detailed, comprehensive and conclusive report. On the one hand you have a pathetic report, on the other hand a wonderful report.
“The Irish taxpayer forked out €300,000 for this drivel (the EY report). They should hauled before an Oireachtas transport committee and the Public Accounts Committee,” he said.
“West on Track and John Bradley really put in front of us a defining document. There is no going back, it is up to the politicians to deliver.”