The Chief Executive of the Western Development Commission (WDC), Lisa McAllister has said that the reintroduction of rail services from Athenry to Ennis, scheduled for September, will radically improve intraregional transport and increase economic activity between the towns and villages on and adjacent to the route.
Ms. McAllister was speaking at a conference on the Western Rail Corridor, Sustainable Regional Transport at a time of Economic Constraint, in Claremorris, County Mayo on Friday May 1st .
She said, “This type of infrastructure project is exactly what’s needed to grow critical mass in the West, and is vital for more regionally balanced development. The real benefit of the Western Rail Corridor, the rail line from Sligo through to Galway and on to connections in the South, will be improved access within the region in an environmentally sustainable manner with significant benefits for commuters, for tourism and for enterprise.”
Phase one will commence in September with services from Athenry to Ennis, enabling rail travel from Galway to Ennis, Limerick and on to Cork, Tralee, Rosslare and Waterford. The WDC says that phase two, which will see services from Athenry to Claremorris via Tuam, will open up the network to Mayo allowing rail travel from Ballina, Castlebar and Westport to the Mid West and South of the country.
Ms Mc Allister said that the WDC was particularly pleased about the new rail freight service from Ballina to Dublin which is also scheduled to start in the autumn. She said that the new service, which is driven by the needs of dynamic exportled industries in Mayo, will help the export led growth which the country needs to get out of the downturn. The new service is a turn around for rail freight traffic from the West, taking heavy goods vehicles off a congested road network. When the section to Claremorris is reopened freight traffic can be routed from Ballina Co. Mayo down the West coast to Waterford and Rosslare ports, easing congestion on the rail network in the East.
Deirdre Frost, Policy Analyst at the WDC added, “Since the WDC was founded we have been pushing for investment in infrastructure, particularly what we call ‘productive’ infrastructure such as telecoms, energy and transport. This type of investment is what will help build the productive capacity of the region and allow the region to contribute to national economic growth. Our work has included submissions to the Strategic Rail Review and participation in the Expert Working Group on the Western Rail Corridor.”
The WDC recommends that to maximise passenger takeup a number of critical factors must be put in place over the coming months. It believes that schedules and timetables must be devised to meet consumer demand, while quality rolling stock, good parkandride facilities, and creative pricing and effective marketing to promote the new rail services will be the final ingredients in delivering a service that caters for customer demand.
The WDC also believes that tourism, an important sector of the Region’s economy, will greatly benefit from the new service. It says that tourism needs good transport access to and within the Region and that this is particularly true where the trend is to shorter holidays. The new service will put towns on the map, raising their profiles and increasing their opportunities to earn revenue from tourism. In addition inbound tourists will be able to arrive in Rosslare and travel by train around Ireland, from the Southeast, to the West and back to the East creating an important tourism product.
“Reinstating services on the Western Rail Corridor represents good value for money as costs were limited to track and signalling renewal and the provision of rolling stock. After a gap of over 30 years since the last scheduled services on the line, it opens up a lot of opportunities for the region,” Ms McAllister concluded.
Links to Presentations and Speeches at the Conference:
For further information please contact:
Lisa McAllister, Chief Executive WDC, 086 771 9969
Or Deirdre Frost, Policy Analyst WDC 086 605 3317
Or Angela Bane, Bane Mullarkey, 087 286 5217