Cheaper to bus all Ennis to Athenry rail passengers, says Cannon

An East Galway TD has welcomed an analysis of passenger numbers using the Ennis-Athenry rail-line.

Minister for the Diaspora and International Development Ciaran Cannon has said that the figures prove the business case for re-opening the line north of Athenry is “leaking like a sieve”.

“I very much welcome the analysis of Irish Rail figures presented by the Western Rail Trail campaign which show quite plainly that passenger numbers on the Ennis-Athenry section of the line have by now, after almost nine years, only reached a little over half of the target figure in the initial business case.

“Thanks to a Freedom of Information request we are now aware that rail passenger numbers between Oranmore and Galway city were used to distort the overall passenger numbers between Limerick and Galway.”

“The stark economic reality is that an average of only 39 passengers per train used the Ennis-Athenry section of the line in 2018 despite an investment of €105m to reopen the line in 2010 and an annual subsidy of €3m being spent to maintain the connection.

“Those 39 passengers per train could be easily accommodated on a single bus using the motorway connecting the two towns, at a fraction of the cost incurred in building a railway and sustaining hugely expensive rail locomotives and carriages. The journey time by motorway is also shorter,” he said.

“Despite a business case which is leaking like a sieve, some people are still clinging tenaciously to the argument that the reopening of the line between Athenry and Claremorris, two towns also connected by a motorway, will be an unqualified success. Those of us who see the weakness of that argument need to contribute to the survey opened this week by consulting company EY DKN as part of the Western Rail Corridor review”.

Minister Cannon said that if you take a relatively small fraction of what was invested in the re-opening of the Ennis-Athenry section of the line, you have the cost of creating the potentially lucrative Quiet Man Greenway.

“The economic argument for such an amenity has been well proven elsewhere in Ireland and would be as quickly proven in East Galway,” he said.

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