Wednesday 24 October 2007

Limerick rail link to airport ruled out in study

Consultants say cost of project would be €700m.

The prospect of a rail link to Shannon airport from Limerick appeared doomed yesterday following confirmation by the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, that Iarnród Éireann has no plans to undertake any further work on the proposal at this stage.

In reply to a parliamentary question Mr Dempsey stated that a feasibility study carried out on behalf of Iarnród Éireann, with input from a steering group representative of local interests, concluded that the economic case for the rail link is poor.

Stating that the rail link is not included in the Government's Transport 21 programme, Mr Dempsey told Limerick East Fine Gael TD Kieran O'Donnell that Iarnród Éireann "has no plans to undertake any further work on the proposal at this stage".

The feasibility study by MVA Consultants has put a cost of €700 million on constructing the rail link. However, this has been disputed by the locally-based Shannon Rail Partnership which claims that the rail link will cost €240 million.

Business development manager with Iarnród Éireann Jim Gallivan confirmed that the feasibility study found that "the costs of the construction of the rail link are out of proportion to the benefits to be gained".

Mr Gallivan said: "Milan has three airports and no rail link with a population of eight to 10 million and the greater Limerick-Shannon area has a population of 150,000 and the current population densities do not justify the project at the moment.

"The figures don't stack up and maybe in 15 to 20 years' time, the population density might be there," he added.

The draft feasibility study states that "in the early years there would be significant deficit on the operating account, but with a buoyant air travel market for the whole 30-year period, revenues could potentially cover operating costs, taking a longer-term view".

The Shannon Rail Partnership wrote to former minister for transport Martin Cullen on the need for the rail link and urged him to reserve a line for the development of the rail link in order to avoid houses being built on the line ahead of the population densities being in place in the future.

The draft feasibility study anticipates that there will be adverse environmental and severance impacts, particularly where the line runs through Shannon town.

Shannon Town Council member Cllr Seán Hillery (Fianna Fáil) confirmed yesterday that he did not receive a response from the then minister.

He said: "The Shannon Rail Partnership will be meeting soon and we will be seeking to reactivate our request to freeze the route for rail line development as it would avoid larger costs down the line."

He added: "This is not going to happen this year or next year and will depend on population increases."

Gordon Deegan
The Irish Times

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