PLANS TO extend the West Clare railway to the towns of Kilrush and Kilkee have received a major boost.
This follows Clare County Council declaring its intention to confer equal status on the tourist attraction that the Cliffs of Moher and Bunratty Castle currently enjoy in the county development plan.
The fortunes of the West Clare railway were recently buoyed by the return of the restored 117-year old Slieve Callan, which operated on the West Clare rail-line from 1892 to 1952.
The then government closed down the railway in 1961 and 2km of the track has been restored at Moyasta in west Clare as a tourist attraction.
Now, in a report before council members that was discussed on Monday at a meeting behind closed doors, county manager, Tom Coughlan recommended that the new Clare County Development Plan “should contain a specific policy safeguarding the route of the line between Kilrush and Kilkee and the supporting proposals to restore the line to working order.”
West Clare businessman Jackie Whelan, who is behind the project, said that following Mr Coughlan’s recommendation he is “now confident that the line can be extended to Kilrush and Kilkee within the next five years with the co-operation of the people and the council. This is great news.” Describing the West Clare railway as as “icon” of Clare’s history, Mr Coughlan said: “It is hugely important to local people . . . Having reviewed the existing 2005 Clare County Development Plan, I consider that the attention that it pays to the West Clare railway could be improved or given greater emphasis.
“The tourism section of the current 2005 development plan lists the key areas of our tourism resource and the West Clare railway is not mentioned.” Mr Coughlan said that “Jackie Whelan has brought what started out as a small venture, born from sheer enthusiasm and a deep grá for Irish locomotives to getting part of the West Clare railway back on track.”
In his submission to the council, Mr Whelan said that tourism was fighting for its survival in the west of Ireland.
Mr Whelan said the official relaunch of the restored Slieve Callan takes place on August 13th next at Moyasta.