Atlantic Economic Corridor Edging Closer

 atlantic-economic-corridor-2Significant change may soon be on its way to the West following confirmation by the Minister for Regional Economic Development, Minister Michael Ring TD, that the process of bringing a major plan together for an Atlantic Economic Corridor was well underway and that he hoped to be in a position to announce details of the plan by December. “Like everybody else in the west of Ireland I believe we have had enough reports. We now need to put infrastructure of all kinds into the west,” he said.

Launching a report by Cicero Communications, Galway, conducted with the co-operation of Iarnród Éireann, at Ireland West Regional Airport, Minister Ring, reacted positively to news that passenger numbers on the Limerick-Galway Intercity Rail route are significantly higher than previously reported. He confirmed that the Mayo-Galway rail link, the next phase of the Western Rail Corridor would be among the projects to be considered. The report found that passenger numbers are now exceeding projections and that traffic on the Galway-Limerick rail route is growing at a faster rate than on any other route in the country.

The new Athenry to Ennis section (Phase One) of the Western Rail Corridor carried 102,000 passengers in 2015, more than double the numbers carried in 2014 and exceeding Iarnrod Eireann forecasts in the original projections for the re-opening of the Galway to Limerick passenger train service. Overall, the Galway -Limerick route carried more than 300,000 passengers in 2015.

The Cicero findings are further confirmed in the recent publication of the National Rail Census by the National Transport Authority which found 1147 journeys took place on the Galway-Limerick Rail service on Rail Census Day 2015. If annualised this would bring total rail journeys between Galway and Limerick to in excess of 400,000.

Speaking at the same event, Seán Canney TD (Minister of State OPW) said that he was working closely with Minister Ring and other colleagues to ensure that the Atlantic Corridor becomes a reality. “The restoration of the Mayo-Galway rail link is a key part of that as far as I am concerned.” He added that he was pleased to confirm that Transport Infrastructure Ireland was writing to Galway County Council to confirm that a new railway bridge is to be built at Ballyglunin as part of the works on the new M17 motorway.

The event was attended by representatives of DFDS Logistics (rail hauliers) and Waterford Port. It is understood that Mayo rail freight to Waterford is to double this week with the addition of Baxter traffic.  A recent study by the Western Development Commission identified a four-fold growth potential in Mayo rail freight traffic that currently stands at over 1,100 freight trains to and from Mayo annually.

Mr. Paddy McGuinness the Chairman of the Western Development Commission welcomed Minister Ring’s remarks and the Cicero Report. He also referenced the forthcoming Rail Review and urged that it be conducted in a positive and constructive manner;

“There is a clear lesson to be learned from the horrific housing crisis we are experiencing at present. And, the message is: Timely action must be taken.  The housing crisis was predictable but action to prevent it was delayed.  We will see a similar crisis in rural Ireland within a decade if we don’t take appropriate action now.

“Today’s report challenges the belief that infrastructure in the regions cannot work.If we are to develop our country properly it is time we looked at our rail network to maximise regional economic and social progress. We need studies that show how we can benefit from our rail resources rather than how we might destroy them. The forthcoming Government rail review must be a positive exercise rather than a negative one. It must have terms of reference that look to development of the railways rather than their destruction.