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Cross party support for Western Rail Corridor in Dáil debate

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SEEKING BALANCED REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT Tabling a Dáil motion on the issue, Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh said successive governments have ‘failed rural Ireland’ by failing to negecting to extend the Western Rail Corridor to Claremorris, as well as up to Sligo.


Edwin McGreal

There was considerable cross-party support in the Dáil this week for extending the Western Rail Corridor (WRC) into Mayo.
The support came during a Private Members motion on regional transport infrastructure tabled by Mayo TD Rose Conway-Walsh (Sinn Féin) and which was carried after considerable discussion.
Setting out the motion, Deputy Conway-Walsh said successive governments have ‘failed rural Ireland’.
“The downgrading of the North and Western regions from a ‘developed region’ to a ‘region in transition’ by the European Commission is an example of this,” she said.
She cited the positive appraisal of the WRC by former ESRI economist Dr John Bradley, commissioned by advocacy group West On Track, which concluded there is a strong business case for the extension of the corridor from Athenry to Tuam and onto Claremorris, as well as onto Sligo.
She criticised the lack of a firm commitment by the current Government to extending the WRC into Mayo in the latest National Development Plan (NDP), with the project being incorporated into an all-island rail review.
She called on the government to ‘fully commit to the delivery of the Western Rail Corridor extension to Mayo as a key infrastructure project for regional development and seek relevant sources of European Union funding to advance the project’.
“This Private Members’ motion is an attempt to put balanced regional development and investment in public transport at the centre of Government and to be central to tackling the climate change crisis. The national development plan was to be the litmus test of the Government’s commitment to regional development. I believe that is a test that it has failed.
“This motion is crystal clear. We need State-led investment in strategic infrastructure for our regions. We have decades of evidence of how successive Governments have failed to deliver for rural Ireland, not least the west is categorised by the EU as a region in transition. This is not a case of just a political party saying that Governments have not delivered for the west. This is being said by the EU also and by many other commentators.
“The Western Rail Corridor has become a byword for regional development and investment in the west. The west will not forgive another government for failing to deliver on this project,” she said.

Sustainable development
Galway West TD Catherine Connolly (Ind) said ‘we have to allow sustainable development in the west of Ireland to take the pressures off the cities’.
“It makes absolute sense to have a railway running from Galway up to Mayo and beyond if we are seriously interested in our commitments under law, in relation to climate, and in relation to balanced regional development,” she said.
Labour’s Ivana Bacik said the Western Rail Corridor is ‘clearly an issue of great concern’ to the counties in the west.
Responding, Patrick O’Donovan, Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, said ‘there are aspects of the motion that seem to wish away best practice in terms of project delivery’.
“I do not think it would surprise anyone to know that a report commissioned by an advocacy group advocated reopening the line. What the Government has approved is not to consider issues like the Western Rail Corridor in isolation but instead to look at our inter-regional rail network in its entirety,” he said.
Responding, Rose Conway-Walsh urged the Government to proceed with the WRC post-haste.
“The Western Rail Corridor is a shovel-ready project, having had ten years of very hard work put into it. The report forwarded by Dr John Bradley concluded all that work. It makes sense economically, socially and from a climate change perspective in terms of freight, passengers and what we want to deliver for the west. The vast majority of politicians across this House agree it needs to be delivered. We need to address the implementation deficit and we need to get it delivered. That would really show the Government intends to listen to people in rural Ireland and the west,” she said.



‘We are not going away’ – Calleary

Edwin McGreal

The Department of Transport was criticised for their ‘opposition’ to the Western Rail Corridor by two west of Ireland TDs during the debate on Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh’s Private Members motion.
Her constituency colleague, Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary, said politicians across Dáil Éireann ‘are not going away on the Western Rail Corridor’.
“Monsignor James Horan, who, 40 years ago, showed how it is done. In the face of the same kind of opposition and the same kind of sticking its head in the sand from the Department of Transport as we have today, especially the permanent side of it, he developed Knock Airport.
“He had a phrase which is often quoted by our colleague, Deputy Ó Cuív. He referred to the policy of the Department as ‘MAD’, meaning ‘maximum administrative delay’.
“Keep putting it on the long finger and hopefully it will go away. Tonight there is an all-party motion saying we are not going away. We are not going away on the Western Rail Corridor. We are not going away on road projects such as the N26 or on proper regional development. We do not want sticking plasters but ambitious stuff that makes a difference.
“That is what is laid out in the Bradley report. I tell the Minister of State it does not matter who commissioned it. Its findings will stand up to any independent analysis. In that it is unlike the EY report commissioned by the Department at a cost to the taxpayer of €500,000, which has many flaws within it.
“The context of waiting for an all-Ireland rail review for a project that has been reviewed so often is typical of the maximum administrative delay strategy. This works. It works not just in the context of the Western Rail Corridor and the extension of the existing corridor to County Mayo and beyond, hopefully, but in the context of the all-island Atlantic Economic Corridor. If we are serious about regional development we will build a ballast to the east right from County Derry to County Kerry.
“We keep saying we will have another review. We cannot have any more reviews. I am calling for the preliminary work to begin. It is not a choice between the rail corridor and a greenway. Both can exist perfectly well alongside each other,” he said
Galway East TD Seán Canney (Independent) echoed Deputy Calleary’s criticisms of the Department of Transport.
“It has the support of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly, the Border, Midland and Western Regional Assembly and the Southern Regional Assembly. It also has the support of local authorities and all of the business communities.
“The only thing that is missing is the Department of Transport, which needs to come out of the dark ages and to see how, under Phase 1, this is the fastest-growing line in Ireland in terms of rail transport. Phases 2 and 3 will only add to that, and we will only see the full benefit when we link it all together,” he said.

 

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