Mayo Chambers, a business group representing more than 4,000 Mayo businesses, has called for the rail line between Claremorris and Athenry to be reinstated for freight services to connect the county directly with Waterford, Cork, and Foynes ports.
In a statement, chairman released this week, Brian Hopkins of Mayo Chambers said reconstructing the “missing link” would encourage investment by improving infrastructure in the region.
"Connectivity is critical,” he said. “Investors want environmentally sustainable ways of moving product in and out.
"Reopening Mayo’s rail link to the south will make the county more attractive for inward investment and enable us to grow existing rail freight traffic.
"In 2014, over 1,000 freight trains, 70 per cent of which were inter-modal (rail, road and ship ), came in and out of Mayo. There is commercial interest in more rail, for moving inter-modal timber, food, fuel, cement, biomass, and wrapped waste.
"Our view is shared by the Irish Exporters Association, Coillte, DFDS Logistics and IWT Logistics, among others,” said Mr. Hopkins.
Mr Hopkins said reinstating the line would shorten the distance for western freight exporting train services to Waterford by 30 miles, Cork by 80 miles, and Foynes by 135 miles.
"It will free up intercity routes, under pressure with passenger traffic, and eliminate the wasteful practice of shunting freight trains between Mayo and Waterford through the greater Dublin area," he added.
“Bringing the line back into service at freight standard can be done for a modest investment and would be a massive vote of confidence in the west and in Mayo.
Heritage and tourism traffic
"Industry needs loop transport and customers want same-day delivery. More than 1,000 freight trains to and from Mayo now rely on a 130-mile single track to Portarlington, which also carries Galway and Mayo passenger traffic. The new route also ensures a back-up for freight to and from Dublin Port.
“In addition to Mayo, restoring the Claremorris to Athenry link would provide capacity to grow new rail freight flows in Galway, Clare, Limerick, and Tipperary, securing the future of the threatened Limerick Junction to Waterford route,” continued Mr Hopkins.
“It also strengthens the business case for a new inter-modal freight hub in Claremorris and delivers the bonus of an extended west coast rail connectivity for growing heritage and tourism traffic from Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Galway, to Westport and Ballina on the Wild Atlantic Way.
“For all these reasons, reconstruction of this rail route is vital for the economic and employment creating potential of the western half of the country to be sustained."