"No funds available to re-open railway lines for passengers or freight" says Paschal Donohoe
Minister states greenway on closed western rail route would "fully protect integrity of corridor"
Greenway supporters now look for county councils to listen to Minister and back greenway for the "tourism and business benefits" it will bring
The Western Rail Trail Campaign received an email from Minister of Transport Paschal Donohoe on June 22nd which reinforces previous correspondence from the Minister that his preferred option is for a greenway on the route of the closed railway from Athenry to Sligo in order to protect the ownership of the closed railway route until such time as a railway ever becomes possible.
Brendan Quinn of the Western Rail Trail campaign said "we are in touch with the Minister on a regular basis and this email reconfirms what Minister Donohoe has said on a number of occasions that the Government has no plans to re-open the railway and that a greenway will protect the route, furthermore this is the first time Mr. Donohoe has referred to both passenger and freight options for the railway"
The Minister makes three key points in his email (copy attached to this press release) quoted below:
"There is no Exchequer funding available to re open rail lines, either for passengers or freight, anywhere on the network". "Iarnród Éireann has confirmed that when Greenways are being developed along closed and abandoned railways, there is specific provision in the licence agreement to ensure that the corridor could be brought back to use as a working railway, should it be required at a future date.". "In addition to the tourism and business benefits that Greenways bring, the development of a Greenway along a rail corridor would of course also fully protect the integrity of the corridor in the event of its future reopening as an operational railway."
"The Minister has confirmed what Greenway campaign groups in Sligo, Mayo and Galway have been saying for many years" said Quinn. The Minister added in his email that it is a matter for local authorities in the first instance to initiate proposals for a greenway on the route. Quinn said "Sligo county council are on board and have approved the idea of a greenway on the route, and is currently looking for funding for a feasibility study.
Unfortunately it's a different story in Mayo and Galway where both county councils are refusing to accept the potential for tourism which a greenway from Sligo to Athenry could bring to the west. We cannot understand why Mayo and Galway county councils are so opposed to this jobs initiative" says Quinn.
We have tried to explain to the councils what a greenway on the route of the closed railway line from Sligo to Athenry will do for the west. Firstly, The potential to link in with the proposed Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Fermanagh greenway from Sligo to Enniskillen opening up a direct cycle route to the West of Ireland for tourists from the North. Secondly, to connect with the Great Western Greenway at Turlough House near Swinford connecting Enniskillen with Achill by continuous greenway. The third benefit would be to connect with the Dublin Galway greenway near Athenry to create a continuous greenway from Dublin to Mayo and Sligo.
Quinn added "The latest email from the Minister puts the ball firmly in the county councils' court. They can either embrace this jobs opportunity or they can continue to be in denial about a railway that clearly is not going to happen anytime soon, if ever. The greenway option now appears to be the only show in town."