Claremorris to Collooney – is a parallel path feasible? (Part 1)

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During recent online discussion regarding the future of the Claremorris-Collooney line, it has been claimed by some that a parallel greenway could be established along with a railway line, as in the picture above. This looks very nice, however on closer inspection of the photo we can see that the line in the picture is a former double track line, with a tarmac path replacing one of the railway lines.

This option isn’t available on nearly all of the Claremorris-Collooney line. The line was built as a single line throughout and all structures relating to the line such as cuttings, embankments and bridges have only got enough space for a single track railway and nothing else.

Over the next few weeks this blog will be examining the line in detail using Google Maps and Street View to show how the line is constructed and why exactly a parallel path would not be feasible.

But let’s start first, as we always should on the railway, with safety.

Even though the original line was built under the Light Railway Acts, it isn’t a “light railway” as we know them today. As and when a replacement line is built on the old route, this would be effectively a brand new railway line capable of running speeds of up to 75 or 90 mph should be possible, along with the ability to handle heavy locomotives such as the 071 or 201 class.

It would be madness to allow a parallel path to be open to the public under these circumstances without a reasonable degree of separation between the railway line and such a path. Fencing would also need to be installed between any walkway or cycle path and the operational railway. Even if this were feasible, such an arrangement would impose significant speed restrictions on rail traffic.

Iarnród Éireann’s own Network Statement shows current thinking on clearances, as we can see in the picture below:

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Source: http://www.irishrail.ie/media/IE2014NetworkStatement_PublishedVersion21.pdf

Although this diagram shows a double track – it is clear that a space of at least 4.6 metres is needed to run a single track and allow enough space for clearance and signalling equipment.

Let’s now look at the track itself as shown on Google Maps. We will start outside of Claremorris and review where the line crosses or is near to public roads.

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Our first stop is where Lisanaboley Lane crosses the line after leaving Claremorris station. At this point the line is in a shallow cutting, where it passes under Lisnaboley Lane.

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We can now see the line passes under the bridge, and out in the distance after this bridge we can see another bridge ahead, that carries a farm track. Google Street View doesn’t cover the next bridge as that is on open land. However we can see that a parallel track and railway line wouldn’t work here, as there is little or no clearance under the bridge.

To illustrate this point, here is a farm accomodation bridge from further up the line:

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As can be clearly seen, this bridge and the many others like it on the Claremorris-Collooney line have very little clearance, other than for a train to pass through.

And as mentioned above, bridges are not the only consideration – cuttings would have to be dug out and embankments widened all along the route to accommodate the necessary additional width; in effect doubling what was originally a single-track railway. The cost of carrying out such works would be prohibitive, so much so that re-instatement of the railway would carry far more benefits for not much more expense.

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