Turn disused rail line into cycle way, new report urges
The disused western rail corridor should be developed as a greenway for cyclists and walkers, according to a government-commissioned report.
While consultants said reopening the railway line "should be a longer-term objective", their report concludes that a "single-use greenway" would be the best short-term option.
The findings will deal another blow to the campaign to reopen the line to passengers and freight trains which is being resisted on cost grounds.
The fate of the rail corridor has generated heated debate amongst those who want the rail line reopened and those who want it preserved as a cycle and walkway to attract more tourism to the west.
While reopening parts of the rail corridor was approved a decade ago, successive transport ministers and Irish Rail have ruled it out.
However, the Government has come under increasing pressure again to invest in the rail route from members of the Independent Alliance and independent rural TDs.
Sean Canney, the independent TD for Galway East who is now the junior minister overseeing the Office of Public Works, secured €55m in funding for an immediate feasibility study of part of the rail route in a deal to support the minority Fine Gael government.
The report, seen by the Irish Independent, was commissioned by the Rural Economic Development Zones project in Tubbercurry to examine how the disused railway line that runs through the town should be used. Consultants Meehan Tully and Associates carried out an "economic assessment" of the line and circulated a draft report in April. The final report is due to be published in the coming days.
The consultants examined three options for the line - re-opening the rail track, turning the track into a recreational greenway for walkers and cyclists, or developing a greenway to run alongside the track.
A draft copy of the report acknowledged that reopening the line had been "long campaigned for by local communities" and "could deliver considerable economic, social and environmental benefits to the region".
However, it added: "Realistically, the reopening of the line will not occur in the short to medium-term.
"As a result, there remains a significant asset in the form of the line infrastructure, eg, ballast, that can be used to the benefit of the region, as demonstrated by the development of greenways in other counties."