Thursday 8 December 2016

Pressure mounts on FG to invest in Western Rail Corridor

Published 05/05/2016 | 02:30

Irish Rail chief executive David Franks
Irish Rail chief executive David Franks

The CEO of Irish Rail was called to brief TDs on the company's financial situation as pressure mounted on Fine Gael to pump money into the Western Rail Corridor.

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Members of the Independent Alliance and Rural Five want the new Programme for Government to commit about €55m to fund an extension of the rail service along the west coast.

However, Fine Gael is understood to be resisting the move on the grounds of cost and Irish Rail has no money to fund such projects itself.

Funding for the western rail corridor was originally approved by a Fianna Fáil-led government. However, in 2011, the outgoing Coalition and then minister for transport Leo Varadkar failed to follow through with money for a 25km section linking Athenry to Tuam.

And last year, Paschal Donohoe indicated that no further money would be forthcoming.

Priorities

The first phase from Limerick to Galway began operation more than five years ago and initially had very poor passenger numbers.

However, the most recent study indicates the section between Ennis and Athenry was used by 102,000 people last year.

The Irish Independent understands that Galway East TD Sean Canney has told Fine Gael that the project ranks extremely highly on his list of priorities.

He wants the line extended from Athenry to Claremorris in order to allow for more freight and passenger traffic to use the railway.

During a briefing with TDs at Government Buildings, David Franks of Irish Rail outlined that the company had a precarious financial situation and wouldn't have money to invest in such project without government subvention.

He is also understood to have warned that the company is facing into uncertain times in terms of industrial relations.

Irish Independent

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