Rail reports end Western Rail Corridor as viable option

The rail reports into the viability of the Western Rail Corridor have shown that there is no case for investing in a railway line along the route, according to the Western Rail Trail Greenway Alliance.

The June 2020 Report into the viability or otherwise of the Western Rail Corridor (WRC ) was released this week by Minister Eamon Ryan, as was an additional report by JASPERS, the consultancy arm of the European Investment Bank (EIB ), which completed a review of EY consulting report. Neither report has found a case for investing in a railway line along the route, but both have cleared up issues that had been the subject of often heated debate over the last decade or more.

According to the Alliance, Minister Ryan had referred to the “weak case” to open the closed railways in comments over Christmas, the release of the reports in full show that the “weak case” is reinforced under every area of scrutiny, and shows there is a very weak case for freight.

The Western Rail Trail Greenway Alliance, a community-based grouping of greenway lobby groups along the route, now calls on the County Councils to accept the inevitable with regards to the WRC. ‘It is now clear,’ says spokesman Brendan Quinn, ‘that no railway is coming to the WRC any time in the next thirty or forty years, if ever.’

Mr Quinn went on to say that Mayo and Galway County Councils should follow the lead of Sligo and apply for the available funding and put a greenway on the line, to remove dereliction, to preserve the route in case a railway is ever possible, and to create jobs and amenities now.

‘We have had enough reports, and reports about reports,’ said Quinn. “When the reports were announced the idea was welcomed by all involved, Rail campaigners, Greenway campaigners and the local County Councils, the reports have to be accepted for what they say there is simply no case for rail, the money for greenways is there, they just have to ask for it. What is stopping them?’

“In terms of value for money the EY Consulting report says ‘the report finds that there is not a value for money argument for reactivating the Western rail corridor.’ It goes on to say that ‘The line will not generate a financial return and will have an overall negative impact on the exchequer finances throughout its lifetime.

“JASPERS has been particularly scathing of the WRC proposal, saying that ‘the proposed project is unlikely to lead to any significant changes in strategic connectivity.’ It gives the proposal a Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR ) of 0.21, which implies that for every €1 invested, society would only gain €0.21. It goes on to say that ‘we consider that that gaining support for project financing of the proposal in its current form would be a challenge,’ and that ‘the weak forecast demand and the limited role for freight would limit the ability of the project to attract grant funding.’ Given that the EIB would be the likely funding partner if government wished to build a railway on the route, this effectively suggests that funding would not be available.

“With regards to the possibility of building a line to carry freight, it says that ‘demand for rail freight along the line would be between 1 and 2 trains per day, with a single train being taken as the central scenario.’ It adds that much of this demand would simply be displaced from existing lines.

It also points out that any railway project would require the replacement of the rail line, sleepers and ballast for the entire length of the line, due to its current poor state. This means the argument that the existing rails and sleeper have any meaning are totally false. They have no meaning at all,” Mr Quinn concluded.


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