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Connacht Tribune

Rail Corridor analysis won’t be completed for at least another year

Declan Tierney

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Greenway on closed railway...campaigners call on Minister to take charge.

The controversial review into the viability of the Western Rail Corridor will not be completed for at least a year – because it has yet to even start.

Irish Rail bosses are not to blame for this lengthy process as they have to abide by strict EU guidlines in the appointment of consultants to carry out this review.

But a local TD and several councillors have been accused of demanding the rail review in the full knowledge that it would take an inordinate time to complete and scupper any chances of a greenway being provided along the old disused railway line.

Even when the independent railway review is completed, the findings of this will be forwarded to the Department of Transport who will then consider the contents – meaning that the process could take even longer.

Minister Ciaran Cannon, a staunch advocate of a greenway along the railway line, said that it was very disappointing and described it as a deliberate delaying tactic.

He said that the cost of the rail review – an estimated €500,000 – would go a long way towards the construction of a greenway from Athenry to Tuam.

When the issue of sourcing funding for a greenway feasibility study was the subject of heated discussions at various meetings of Galway County Council and Tuam Municipal Council, a rail feasibility review was called for.

This meant that there could be no plan for the railway track from Athenry to Tuam and on to Claremorris while this review was pending.

Barry Kenny of Irish Rail explained to The Connacht Tribune that the deadline for the applications from consultants was November 13 last.

He explained that all procurement processes are carried out in accordance with European Union laws which have to be strictly adhered to.

Irish Rail will be in receipt of the final tenders on January 23 next and a decision will be made on the successful consultant in early February.

But Mr Kenny pointed out that under EU laws, there then has to be a two week period for the unsuccessful bidders to either query or challenge the decision.

It is anticipated that that Irish Rail will be in a position to confirm the successful tender publicly in late February.

However, it is not known when the actual rail review to consider the viability of a passenger rail service from Athenry to Tuam and on to Claremorris will commence.

Even when it does, it will take five months to complete, according to Irish Rail, which could take the whole process up until the end of the year.

But despite Minister Sean Canney’s assertion late last year that the rail review ‘is ongoing’, it hasn’t even kicked off yet and there is no definite indication when it will be completed.

The Galway East TD, as part of his support for the current administration, had it written into the Programme for Government that a review be carried out of the Western Rail Corridor phase two between Athenry and Claremorris for passenger and freight use.

But Minister Ciaran Cannon pointed to the fact – and this was alluded to by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently – that a previous appraisal had been carried out which dismissed any prospect of the rail corridor being developed.

He said that the last time the appraisal was carried out on the Western Rail Corridor, it came out negatively at a cost of 100 against six – 100 being the cost and six being the benefit.

“It would want to be up on 100 against 80 to be any way worthwhile,” he added.

Connacht Tribune

Galway Real Estate have attractive site for sale on the Aran Islands

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Oghill, Inishmore, Aran Islands.

Galway Real Estate have an attractive site/property for sale at Oghill, Inishmore, Aran Islands.

The site is approximately c.150 square metres. (c.1600 sq. ft.) on c.1 acre with planning permission to convert to a dwelling house and fit a new waste water treatment system. Planning Ref: 17/1284. There are two years  left on planning. The planning is for a proposed 4 bedrooms, kitchen, dining/room, laundry/room, bathroom. This is a wonderful opportunity to get a property ready to go. Offers in excess of €125,000 considered.

Full details from Paddy Flynn 0872557618 or Galway Real Estate on 091565488 or email: info@galwayrealestate.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Aran to welcome Ireland’s largest domestic passenger ferry

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Saoirse na Farraige

The largest domestic passenger ferry in the country is making its journey from the Far East to the Far West – ready to commence service from Galway to the three Aran Islands.

The 40-metre ‘Saoirse na Farraige’ represents a massive investment – and vote of confidence – in island tourism on the part of the owners, Aran Island Ferries.

Commissioned in January 2019, this sixth member of their fleet has a capacity of 400 – and it is expected to arrive in Galway Bay from Hong Kong in October.

The vessel departed Hong Kong last week, embarking on a 2,500 mile journey to Galway Bay – inside the hold of a heavy lift ship called Svenja’”.

Saoirse na Farraige has at least three more stops to make before arriving in Galway Bay at the end of October – and it won’t not enter service until next spring.

Aran Island Ferries Sales and Marketing Manager, Aine McLoughlin, said that they were looking forward to seeing visitors enjoy their journey to the Aran Islands, enjoying the increased capacity, accessibility, and safety features.

“We are really looking forward to officially launching ‘Saoirse na Farraige’ next year and seeing visitors enjoy their journey to the Aran Islands on board our new ferry,” she said.

Saoirse na Farraige will serve all three islands from Rossaveel – with a journey time of 40 minutes to Inis Mór, 50 minutes to Inis Meáin, and 55 minutes to Inis Oírr.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in now – or download our digital edition at www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Emergency Department upgrade will happen at UHG – but it’s complicated

Denise McNamara

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The current ED at UHG.

Revamping the emergency department at UHG will involve three separate projects – leading to the hospital’s chief describing the process as ‘very complex’.

City Councillor John Connolly (FF) said the people of Galway were concerned that the new emergency department – like the ring road – would never happen, as it appeared to be so bound up in red tape.

Joe Hoare, assistant national director of estates in HSE West, told the Regional Health Forum West meeting that that outpatients department adjacent to the emergency department was being redeveloped to create more capacity for streaming Covid patients from non-Covid patients for the winter.

The outpatients department would be relocated to the Merlin Park campus. The design for this building would be completed within ten months with construction expected to begin in by last 2021 at the earliest.

An interim emergency department was the next priority so that the current building could be knocked to make way for the new state-of-the-art building, creating a new maternity department and paediatrics unit.

Since the budget for the new children’s hospital had blown out of all proportion, the rules over public projects over €100 million had changed and the Saolta hospital group had to ensure its business case for the massive project was ‘watertight’.

Mr Hoare said all three projects were moving in parallel, including the enabling works for the main build, which would take around 18 months to complete.

He described the project as Saolta’s ‘absolute top priority and was regarded as such by the national HSE organisation.

Head of Saolta, Tony Canavan, said the project was ‘big and very complex’ and required management to remain ‘very focused over a long time’.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in now – or download our digital edition at www.connachttribune.ie

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