I believe it is vital that the Western Rail Corridor be included in the ten-year Capital Plan which will be published by the end of the year.
The Western Rail Corridor, as it is, serves communities across several counties by connecting two of the country’s cities – Galway and Limerick. The Western Rail Corridor provides commuters with a choice and an alternative mode of transport, makes the West more accessible for tourists and visitors and helps businesses by providing a tried and trusted method of transport for goods.
With over 380,000 annual passenger journeys the service has far exceeded initial estimates on which the original business case was based. The opening of the new M17/M18 Gort to Tuam motorway has led to some predicting the death of the Western Rail Corridor and others calling for a greenway to be installed.
I believe the M17/M18 is an important milestone in the development of transport infrastructure in the West. I am in favour of greenways and believe they bring benefits to communities – to visitors and locals alike. However, I also believe that the way to enhance infrastructure in the West of Ireland is not by developing one at the expense of another.
We need to deliver greater transport connectivity in the West. Developing the Western Rail Corridor northwards to Tuam and Sligo achieves this. Furthermore the sustainability and lower environmental impact of railways – and public transport in general – mean they are essential in helping us to meet our climate change obligations.
The Western Rail Corridor is also an integral part of the Atlantic Economic Corridor, a Government-backed initiative aiming for more balanced regional development, which as Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development, comes under my remit.
The Western Rail Corridor is part of the solution and it needs to be in the Capital Plan.