WITH plans for a Rosslare to Waterford greenway hanging in the balance and awaiting the outcome of an all-island strategic rail review, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has given perhaps his strongest indication yet that it may not happen and rather the rail connection between the two will be reinstated.
The Rosslare to Waterford rail line closed to passengers back in 2010 and Wexford County Council has already put forward major plans to convert the disused line into a greenway. Despite plans in this regard being quite far along, they were put on hold recently as Minister for Transport wanted Rosslare to Waterford included in the major rail review before any irreversible decisions on its future were taken.
Wexford County Council officials have previously stated that it would not be possible to accommodate both a greenway and an active rail line on the route, and were remaining hopeful ahead of outcome of the review.
Meanwhile, lobby groups like South East on Track have been pushing for the reinstatement of the track, stressing that increased activity at Rosslare Europort and major plans for Trinity Wharf in Wexford would make any decision to remove the rail line short-sighted.
Speaking at an Oireachtas Transport Committee meeting on Wednesday, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan offered perhaps the strongest indication to date that the restoration of the rail line will be more likely than proceeding with greenway plans.
“Rosslare Port is developing particularly for roll-on, roll-off. With Brexit, the landbridge is less attractive so we’re going to see a lot more going through Rosslare,” Minister Ryan said. “There’s an example where people say ‘that could be a lovely greenway’, but also people saying ‘could you not connect that strategically?’ And Rosslare is going to become more and more strategically important for the state.
"Why would you get rid of a rail connection?”
The Minister’s comments were a source of great frustration for Cathaoirleach of the Rosslare Municipal District Cllr Jim Moore.
“It’s essential that the Minister clearly specifies what he foresees here,” he said. “Is there really a strong enough business case to be made for reinstating that line? I travelled to Waterford on that train myself and I can tell you it was never used. I just cannot see the financial justification for it. The business case for a greenway is very, very strong.”
Recalling how plans for the Rosslare to Waterford greenway were first put on hold until a route was selected for the Oylegate to Rosslare Harbour motorway, before now being paused for the rail review, Cllr Moore says that it's already been four years since the plan was first put forward with limited progress.
"I think Minister Ryan needs to put forward a very strong business case to justify what he’s talking about,” he said. “Otherwise, just let Wexford County Council get on with its own business.”
At the Transport Committee Meeting, Minister Ryan also offered an update on the Barrow Bridge in New Ross, stating that “it’s being kept open or openable until after the rail review. We’ll have to wait and see what that is.”