Lack of information and disinformation is clouding the case for the Western Rail Corridor which must proceed to cope with huge demand for rail travel in the region, according to Claremorris Chamber of Commerce.
This week the Chamber wrote to Transport Minister Noel Dempsey urging him not to be misled by untruths being peddled about high costs and low usage on the Western Rail Corridor.
Chamber president Eugene Waldron said the Minister’s reply to their earlier letter, in which he reiterated the Government’s commitment, was welcome but otherwise it was “full of red herrings”.
“We were shocked to hear the Minister say he had not received the business case,” said Mr Waldron. “It’s nearly three years since Martin Cullen announced that Government had approved phases two and three from Athenry to Claremorris, and barely three months since the national media quoted the projected cost for the two phases from the business case itself. Why is this information being withheld from the Minister? Who is keeping him in the dark?”
The Chamber additionally expressed concern that misinformation and untruths were being peddled to suggest to the Minister that the project is proving more costly and attracting less customers than projected.
“The phase one figure of €106m for Ennis to Athenry includes a lot of add-ons that were not in the original plan,” said Mr Waldron. “Stations at Sixmilebridge and Oranmore, and extra works from Athenry to Galway, all got bolted on. Iarnród Éireann says €88m has been spent to date. That does not include the Oranmore station and level crossing removals. There’s a difference of €18m. If phase one comes in at €106m it’s because a lot of extras were added on,” he said.
The Chamber said 2,000 tickets a week are being sold at Ennis, not counting pensioners and people with free passes. “Iarnród Éireann agree the railway is a runaway success. It looks now that the number of trips taken on the railway from Galway to Limerick in year one will be well in excess of the 169,000 journeys projected. We would like to see the official figures for actual ticket sales at all stations, with an appropriate percentage for people travelling free passes, based on national trends, included.”
Claremorris Chamber is calling on the Government to get phases two and three under way right away.