There has been widespread condemnation of the Government’s omission of the third stage of the Western Rail Corridor,from the newly announced capital investment programme, by opposition politicians in the county. The third stage of the corridor, which would link Claremorris to Tuam, was not included in the new capital investment programme which will run until 2016.
The first phase of the corridor was opened earlier this year from Ennis to Athenry, with the second phase linking Athenry to Tuam expected to be completed by the end of next year. Mayo based MEP Jim Higgins said that the decision to omit the third leg of the corridor was unacceptable. “It is unacceptable and incomprehensible that this project is not being given full priority by the Government,” he said. “The people of the west are now faced with a situation which will see the metro built in Dublin at a cost of around €300 million per km, while the Western Rail Corridor could be built at a cost of just €3 million per km, as no land needs to be purchased, no planning permission is needed, and no tunnelling is required.” The Ballyhaunis native hit out at Green Party and its commitment to sustainable transport in rural Ireland. “We have the Greens talking about sustainable transport, but I wonder does this only apply if you live in an urban area on the east coast? What about those without cars in the west?"
However Finna Fáil TD and Minister of State Dara Calleary told the Mayo Advertiser this week that the Government was still fully behind the project. “There is still a Government commitment to the project and that has always been there,” he said. “People may doubt that commitment but it has never wavered.” Minister Calleary said that he would continue to work in Government to get the link up and running. “I will continue to lobby Minister Dempsey on the issue, we also have to look at the demand for the service to make sure it’s there. I have no doubt that there is a demand for this service, you only have to look at the demand for the first stage of the project which far exceeds what was expected. I’m fully on board with this issue.”
Former Independent TD and newly announced member of the Labour Party, Dr Gerry Cowley said that the Government has no real commitment to the west of the country. “Mayo will suffer greatly as a result of the cancellation of projects. Included among those, of course, is the phase of the Western Rail Corridor, between Tuam and Claremorris. I had raised serious concerns about the threat to the project in early July and I'm sorry to have to report that my warnings proved right. The shelving of the project is this Government's real commitment to the west — it is not existent," said Dr Cowley.
The possible implementation of tolls on all the national road network was another issue to raise the ire of opposition politicians in Mayo this week. Fine Gael TD Michael Ring hit out at the idea describing it as “an outrageous attack’ on rural Ireland. “There have previously been a large number of complaints from businesses in the west of Ireland who are experiencing grave difficulties in getting their products to the markets due to the bad condition of the roads,” he added. “So how could the Government even consider imposing tolls on national roads? Motorists have already been hit by Minister Gormley’s carbon tax and those living outside of Dublin do not have proper infrastructure such as LUAS and the DART. We do not have alternative transport options.”
Castlebar based Sinn Féin councillor Thérèse Ruane also hit out at the idea, saying that it was the Government going after the average person once again. “It has been claimed that the introduction of tolls on the national infrastructure will be an incentive for people to use other transport. Which other transport? Existing public transport is already being squeezed, this is at a time that buses are being taken off the roads en masse and bus journeys are being cut. Once again, rather than taking the decision to focus on those who have the most in this State, this Government has decided to further pick the pockets of the average person and family. This proposal is outrageous and must be opposed.”