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.
Shannon back in full flight!
There was a festive atmosphere at Shannon Airport this week as the inaugural Ryanair Corfu service prepared to take flight – ahead of another new service to Gran Canaria, which begins this week.
The new route to the popular Greek Island will operate twice weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays until the end of October, and the new weekly Ryanair service to Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) begins this Saturday.
All of this means that Shannon Airport is now serving Alicante, Barcelona, Stansted, Gatwick, Kaunas, Krakow, Wroclaw, Warsaw, Manchester, Corfu, Faro, Lanzarote, Malaga, Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) and Turin.
Passengers on the first Corfu-bound flight enjoyed a pre-departure reception in the airport’s transit lounge which was decorated in festive style.
To celebrate the new routes, the airport gave one lucky passenger a special surprise, return flight tickets for two people to a choice of one of Shannon Airport’s 17 exciting destinations.
A special water cannon salute by the airport’s fire service added an extra sense of occasion as airport staff welcomed passengers and looked after them throughout their time in the airport.
Welcoming the new air services Mary Considine, CEO, Shannon Group, which owns and manages Shannon Airport said: “The global pandemic has had a huge impact on all our lives and being able to once again welcome our passengers as they take to the skies bound for sun drenched holiday destinations is really wonderful.
See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Pixies slot proves time is now for the Clockworks
Groove Tube with Cian O’Connell
When Pixies were announced as Galway International Arts Festival headliners way back in 2019, a promising Loughrea four-piece were fresh from relocating to London and bullishly embracing their role as the new faces of former Oasis manager Alan McGee’s Creation 23 record label.
Two years on, the US alt-rock pioneers are yet to grace the Big Top – but the Clockworks, made up of James McGregor, Tom Freeman, Seán Connolly and Damian Greaney, are set to make a US debut in their company with a series of support slots that cement their place as one of Galway’s biggest artistic exports.
In less than six weeks’ time, Pixies will embark on a September tour of the states with the Clockworks by their side for six gigs. The Galway group play their own maiden headline US show in New York’s Mercury Loung on September 8.
On their horizon too, is an end-of-year Irish tour with Dublin indie-rock outfit Inhaler as well as a host of festival appearances, barring cancellations.
With news of the Pixies tour coming in the same week NewDad were announced as support for Fontaines D.C.’s highly anticipated Belfast show on August 13, it is powerful evidence of the ground Galway acts continue to break.
“It’s very exciting to have loads of gigs lined up after absolutely nothing for so long,” James admits.
“It’s really nice to feel like we’re going to hit the ground running and when Pixies came through, that was just amazing and what a way to start. It’s our first time gigging in America – my first time going there personally.
“All four of us are massive fans of Pixies too. Any time they’d come to Ireland, we’d always try and throw our hat in the ring for a support slot and just to think that now we’ll be going around the States with them is insane.”
Read the full interview in this week’s Groove Tube, in the Connacht Tribune – on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital version from www.connachttribune.ie
All out in force to cheer home one of their own
Sitting on an airplane, mid-air from Japan en route to Dublin, Olympic bronze medallist from Moycullen, Fiona Murtagh was unsure whether anyone would be at the airport to meet her and teammates Aifric Keogh of Na Forbacha, Eimear Lambe and Emily Hegarty when they touched down.
Because of Covid-19 restrictions, there was no big welcoming party planned for Dublin Airport. But Fiona need not have worried; as she strode out of airport security and into Arrivals, all her family were there to hug her.
Fiona hadn’t seen her parents Marguerite and Noel since April because of a pre-Olympic training camp in Italy; and her siblings Pádraig, Lorraine and twin Alan all turned up, too.
“Oh my God, I couldn’t believe it. It was actually really emotional, it was so lovely. I didn’t expect the full family to be there. Tears came to my eyes. I hadn’t seen mom and my dad in seven weeks,” said Fiona.
That was just the first leg of what was to be a heart-warming homecoming for a hero.
The family drove back to Galway with Fiona, who had heard “through the grapevine that there was going to be something in Bushypark”.
“But the scale of it, I didn’t expect it at all, it was incredible, it was so lovely to see everyone come out and support and see me”, she said.
Read the full story over eleven pages of coverage on the homecoming of our Olympic heroes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie