The costings given in the recent Strategic Rail Review to open the Western Rail Corridor have been grossly inflated to the extent that they appear to make the reintroduction of train services uneconomic, people attending a seminar on rail infrastructure will be told today.
While the review states the cost of reintroducing a Galway-Ennis-Limerick-Cork passenger service would be €290 million, some railway industry observers believe the real cost is closer to €102 million. The Western Development Commission has organised the seminar in Claremorris in order to respond to the review's findings. It is expected there will be strong opposition to the findings that favoured the expansion of Dublin and Cork suburban services and the upgrading of inter-city services but with little development of regional services to tie in with the National Spatial Strategy. In his presentation, Mr James Nix, transport researcher at Dublin Institute of Technology, will question the review's contention that 97 km of track requires upgrading on the Galway-Limerick-Cork route. He maintains the only portion requiring upgrading is the currently disused 57 km stretch between Ennis and Athenry. Based on the figure of €1.5 million per kilometre from review consultants Booz Allen Hamilton, the cost works out at €86 million. He estimates that sufficient railcars to provide an hourly service would work out at €16 million, giving a total of €102 million - compared with the consultants estimate of €290 million. The seminar is likely to see strong support for Galway-Limerick-Cork services. The case for reintroducing services on the old Athenry-Tuam-Claremorris-Sligo route will also be re-activated. The Sligo (Collooney)-Claremorris section last had passenger services in 1963 while Claremorris-Athenry ceased services in 1976. Proponents of these routes point out that reviving rail services will stimulate development and enhance balanced regional growth. They will also maintain there is scope for freight traffic such as timber. The reopening of part or all of the Western Rail Corridor is likely to become an issue in the next local elections. The review reported favourably on the merits of developing a Limerick-Ennis service with a spur to Shannon Airport and also reopening the Athenry-Ennis section, but advocates of the rail corridor fear the high costs listed may lessen its chances of proceeding. Among the speakers at the seminar will be Mr Frank Dawson, of the Galway County Development Board, who is advocating a suburban service between Athenry and Galway with a new station at Oranmore; Father Michael McGreil, of the Western Inter County Rail Committee, and Jim Deegan, of Rail Tours Ireland Limited. Representatives from Iarnr??d Éireann, the Department of Transport, and the European Commission will also contribute. Chris Ashmore © The Irish Times
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