A Government Minister has rubbished any suggestion that the Western Rail Corridor should be reopened to trains – claiming instead that the provision of a greenway from Athenry all the way to Enniskillen was the most logical option.
And Minister Ciaran Cannon says 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.
The Galway East TD has always been a staunch advocate of a greenway being provided along the rail corridor from Athenry to Tuam onto Claremorris and beyond.
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.
Minister Cannon said that the development of the motorway network had resulted in rail freight now being in low demand.
He added that the opening of motorway between Tuam and Limerick reduced the requirement of rail. He said that this will be extented to Cork and possibly Sligo in the future.
Greenway campaigners are delighted with Minister Cannon’s strongest statement to date on the controversial issue. He said that the Ennis to Athenry section of passenger railway was losing €55,000 every week.
He said that there is now a fantastic opportunity available to create a greenway that would prove a huge economic benefit to North Galway, Mayo and Sligo on a State-owned track.
Fellow Galway East TD Sean Canney has been a firm opponent of a greenway along the Western Rail Corridor and he is supported in his stance by a number of councillors who have been successful in preventing a feasibility study being commissioned on a greenway.
Tuam’s Cllr Shaun Cunniffe welcomed Minister Cannon’s statement saying that it made absolutely no sense in reopening the railway in view of the roads network that have been provided.
“The prospect of trains running on the rail corridor was never going to happen and I am glad that the Minister has acknowledged this. It is time to dismiss the arguments for the reopening of the rail track and just move forward with a greenway.
“It can be done in a stage-by-stage process with the Athenry to Tuam section kicking the whole greenway off and even this would be a huge economic boost to both towns”, Cllr Cunniffe added.
Brendan Quinn of the Western Rail Trail in Sligo also expressed his gratitude that a senior Government politician is firmly behind their greenway proposals.
“Minister Cannon and his colleague in Galway East Anne Rabbitte of Fianna Fail are both on record stating their support for the Western Rail Trail from Athenry north to County Mayo
“Minister Cannon went on to say the only part of the country not benefiting from greenway investment was East Galway because a small cohort of people are blocking the greenway from happening because they still think the railway is going to come,” Mr Quinn added.