Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has made it clear the Western Rail Corridor will not be extended and calls have now been made on Galway county councillors to develop plans for a greenway on the disused railway route.
In recent correspondence with Brendan Quinn of the Sligo-Mayo Greenway Campaign, Minister Donohoe said there are no plans to extend the railway along the disused alignment.
The first phase of the route, from Ennis to Athenry, was completed in 2010, but has proved unsuccessful, attracting insufficient passenger numbers and suffers heavy losses, requiring significant annual subvention to cover operating costs. Pro-rail campaigners had hoped that the next section from Athenry to Tuam might be reopened in the near future, although most observers accept that the planned motorway link between Gort and Tuam has made this highly unlikely.
Minister Donohoe has now come down firmly on the side of the pro-tourism lobby, stating “that it is the Department's view that the construction of a greenway along the route of the disused rail line will protect the integrity of the line in the event of any possible future reopening as an operational line.”
Commenting on the Minister's email, Brendan Quinn said today that “this statement brings clarity to the situation concerning the future of the route. Two successive Ministers of Transport have told us there are no plans to re-open this railway north of Athenry and the route must be protected”
He went on to call on all councillors in Mayo, and Galway to follow the lead of Sligo County Council and develop plans for a greenway on the disused railway route.
“This project will create immediate jobs and opportunities in the region, and will protect the route for future generations. It is clear from the Minister's comments that a greenway project would find favour with the Department, and that councils would be pushing an open door with regards to funding. There are two viable options here; protect the asset with a greenway, or dream of a train that isn't coming,” he said.