Tuesday 15 October 2019

Heated debate over Western Rail Corridor

Sorcha Crowley at Sligo County Council meeting

The Council has endorsed a new national rail policy objective to deliver the Western Rail Corridor to Sligo.

At last week's February Council meeting however, heated debate arose after the Executive suggested removing this objective from a draft of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly.

Another objective of the plan is to carry out a review of the railway as a "priority for passenger and freight transport."

In their official response to the NWRA on what they think should go into the strategy, Council officials said they felt it was a contradiction to review the railway in one objective and implement it in another objective and therefore sought to remove the objective of delivering the railway altogether.

However council members adopted a motion from Cllr Declan Bree endorsing the Rail Network Policy Objectives as they were contained in the Draft, without any amendments or deletions.

This in effect obliged officials to remove from the Council submission their controversial suggestions.

The strategy itself allows for a Greenway to be developed alongside the railway line, one will not rule out the other.

Cllr Seamus Kilgannon, a supporter of the Greenway from Tubbercurry to Collooney, said the strategy shouldn't stop the railway coming.

Cllr Dara Mulvey said he was supportive of the Greenway but not opposed to the railway re-opening either. "It's important the railway is protected, no matter what goes on it," he said.

"I know people supportive of the Greenway are still supportive of the railway line," he added.

Head of Planning with the Council Frank Moylan said while they welcomed the review of the WRC they "felt there's a tension between that and Objective 115 - you can't say in the same document we're going to review it and then implement it. You have to complete the review first," he said.

Cllr Bree replied that the Council had endorsed the rail objective "only five minutes ago" and the Executive would have to accept the view of the Council.

"You cannot support the outcome of the review before it's done," said Chief Executive Ciarán Hayes. "It is incumbent on us to point out any contradictions. The Council must respect the advice of the Executive," he added.

"Yes, we have and agreed to reject the advice. Respect our decision," replied Cllr Bree.

Mr Moylan agreed not to insert the controversial recommendations on the rail objectives and it was agreed that no changes would be made to the Western Rail Corridor objectives.

Sligo Champion