The campaign to reopen the railway track linking Claremorris to Sligo in the north and Galway and Limerick in the south has run out of steam and should give way to proposals for a greenway route along the track instead.
That is according to the Sligo Mayo Greenway group, who say rail ambitions in east Mayo are a pipe dream with no hope of getting funding.
Instead, they are seeking support for the development of an east Mayo greenway cycle route to mirror the Great Western Greenway in the west of the county, which attracted an estimated 200,000 vistors in 2013.
West on Track has been campaigning for more than 10 years for the reopening of the railway line between Sligo and Limerick. They say it is the most a valuable piece of infrastructure in the region, estimating its worth to be between €80 and €90 million, even in its current dilapidated state.
A section of the track, between Athenry and Ennis, was reopened in 2012.
However Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, has confirmed the Government has “no plans to extend the western rail corridor nor any other heavy rail line in the State”.
Councillor Gerry Murray, who supports West on Track, says it would be “foolish” to compromise the future reopening of the railway line, and the possible industrial investment this could attract to the region.
Brendan Quinn, a Sligo Mayo Greenway campaigner from Enniscrone, is calling on West on Track to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’.
“We need jobs, not promises of railways that in all likelihood will never happen,” he stated.
Charlestown-based Councillor Murray believes funding to reopen the line may come from Europe, although this claim has been rejected by Sligo Mayo Greenway campaigners.
“We are expected one or two significant announcements about the railway line in the next 18 months,” said Councillor Murray.
Councillor Joe Mellett from Swinford is supporting calls to develop the track as a greenway until the reopening of the railway line becomes a more realistic prospect.
“I’m one hundred per cent supportive of West on Track,” he said. “But realistically, it’s just not viable right now. We need to all work together to use this line soon or we could lose it altogether.”
He explained the line is being used locally for agricultural and other purposes and this could jeopradise railway rights if those using it claim a “right of way” has been established.