A Government minister has come under fire for lending his support for the provision of a walking and cycling greenway on the old Western Rail Corridor.
Junior Minister Ciaran Cannon has been accused of adding to the current gridlock that exists in and around Galway city by his stance on abandoning the rail track.
Minister Cannon recently rubbished any suggestion that the Western Rail Corridor should be reopened to train traffic and he said that the provision of a greenway from Athenry all the way to Enniskillen was the way to go.
And he added that “a small cohort” of individuals who are advocating rail traffic on the line were doing “a disservice” to a lot of people who could benefit from a greenway.
But an organisation called Future Looking Athenry Group (FLAG) have made contact with the Connacht Tribune and say that the closure of the Tuam to Athenry railway line in the 1970s is now a major contributory factor in the current congestion.
A statement signed by Seamus Mulkerrins, Noel Doherty and Kevin Higgins says that while motorways are great, they add to the bottlenecks around cities like Galway by moving traffic more efficiently.
They believe that Athenry can be the centre for rail travel in the west and that is why they are totally opposed to the rail corridor being used for any other purpose.
Minister Cannon said that there will not be any trains running along the Western Rail Corridor “in our lifetime” and he also went on to dismiss the prospect of it being used for freight traffic.
He said that the biggest rail freight company in the country had recently scaled back their demand for a service between Ballina and Waterford Port to just one a week and now there was no service required.
However, the members of FLAG say that Minister Cannon along with fellow greenway advocate Deputy Anne Rabbitte of Fianna Fail did not judge the views of the country in the recent referendum very well and they believe that they have called it wrong on this occasion as well.
“We are not against a greenway but we just don’t accept that it should be provided on the old railway line.
“Those people old enough can still remember the destruction of the Galway to Clifden railway line and the tram lines in Dublin.
“We reject strongly his assertion that a small cohort of individuals are advocating rail traffic. The closure of the Tuam to Athenry line is a major contributory factor in the current traffic congestion.
“There have been occasions recently of traffic back-ups as far as Oranmore, Derrydonnell and, indeed, as far back as Athenry on the approach to Galway.
“This, we suggest, is a sign of future traffic congestion around Galway and imagine what it will be like in 20 years time when the population of the country is expected to double,” the group stated.
They are of the opinion that the Galway to Limerick rail service is very well utilised and that the closure of the Western Rail Corridor would be short-sighted in the future.