IARNRÓD ÉIREANN has denied that a delay in the reopening of the western rail corridor has anything to do with the McCarthy report which claimed the project may not be viable.
The Ennis to Athenry line, which has been derelict since closing in 1976, was expected to reopen this month. However, Iarnród Éireann has now confirmed that services will not start until early December. The company has said the project is progressing, and that no mention has been made to it of the contents of the McCarthy report.
A spokeswoman said the latest delay had occurred because “tamping machinery” operating on the project has had to be seconded to carry out emergency work on the Sligo to Dublin line.
“The track has been laid and the line is complete and we are pressing ahead, although we are a small bit behind schedule. We still have some other work to carry out, for example, we are still completing works on the station and car park at Sixmilebridge.”
Explaining the reason for the delay, she added: “Tamping machines are used to go over the track and stress-test it before we can let trains run on it. There were some issues on the line in Sligo, so these tamping machines had to be diverted there from where they had been working on the Ennis to Athenry line. These machines are now back and working on the line, and we now expect a start date in early December.” The project is the only piece of transport infrastructure mentioned in the McCarthy report, raising fears that it could face the axe. There are also concerns the delay in opening the line has been orchestrated until the Government has decided which elements of the report will be implemented.
Clare Green Party councillor Brian Meaney said: “It would be a gross misuse of funds now not to complete the project when it is already practically complete.
“The issue of public transport links to two of the largest urban centres on the west coast greatly enhances the sustainability and future, both environmentally and economically, of the Limerick-Shannon-Ennis-Galway region.”
A spokesman for the West on Track Community Campaign has accused the author of the McCarthy report of “targeting the west of Ireland”. Colmán Ó Raghallaigh said: “The western rail corridor is a valid and sensible project, is supported by over 100,000 people, can be done at tremendous value to the taxpayer, and will be as viable as any other rail project in Ireland.
“The McCarthy report has chosen to pick one project from the plan that should be axed – the western rail corridor – which is about 1 per cent of the total budget.”
He added: “Colm McCarthy is targeting the west of Ireland and applying his Dublin 4 vision and prejudices to a completely different set of circumstances.”