Government reviewing re-opening Athenry to Claremorris rail line

Galway daily news Quiet Man station gets planning approval for restoration

The government is reviewing whether to extend the Western Rail Corridor to include the closed rail line between Athenry and Claremorris, Co. Mayo.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross ordered the review, which will look at the cost of re-opening the rail line and the potential for economic development it would bring.

It was first promised that a review would be undertaken of services along the Western Rail Corridor in 2016.

The issue of the rail line has become a bone of contention between two Galway East TD’s, Sean Canney and Ciaran Cannon.

Deputy Cannon has said that trains will never run on the line “in our lifetime” as it is not economically viable, pointing to the low traffic on the Ennis to Athenry line.

The Fine Gael TD is a strong supporter of converting the disused line into a greenway, which he says will bring tourism benefits to Athenry and other small towns along the line.

Indenpendent TD Sean Canney has long been outspoken in favour of extending the rail corridor.

It was he who secured a commitment for an independent review of re-activating the rail line in the May 2016 programme for government.

The Irish Times reports that Deputy Canney says he has a written guarantee from the Taoiseach that if the finding of the review are approved by the government, the project will go ahead.

“The Taoiseach has also highlighted that the two phases from Athenry to Claremorris could play an important role in the Atlantic economic corridor,” Deputy Canney said.

“The project has been described by the chair of the Atlantic Economic Corridor task force subcommittee on infrastructure as a no brainer.”

Back in 2005, the government commissioned McCann report suggested re-opening Western Rail Corridor in three stages.

But the Fine-Gael government showed little interest in the project from 2011 on, with then Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar deleting any mention of it from the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network (Ten-T) programme for cross-border projects.

This rendered the project unable to qualify for EU funding for years to come.

Some local groups have suggested that a better, alternative use for the line would be as a greenway running from Athenry to Sligo.

The Western Rail Trail Campaign has a petition to convert the line into a greenway, which recently passed 20,000 signatures.

Campaign founder Brendan Quinn said that converting the wholly state owned line into a greenway would preserve it in case it is ever re-opened.