A new report has concluded that extending the Western Rail Corridor from Athenry to Tuam and onto Claremorris would not provide value for money, and would do little to reduce traffic congestion.The report was carried out by accountancy firm EY, and was commissioned by Irish Rail in 2019.
The Athenry to Ennis section of the rail corridor reopened ten years ago.Costing €106 million, it saw the reintroduction of trains between Galway and Limerick, and a campaign has continued since then for the reopening of the section of track between Athenry and Claremorris, The EY report says reopening the line would cost almost €264 million euro.
Projections are based on the line being operational from 2026, with annual passenger numbers of 552,000. This would deliver €2.2m in revenue to Irish Rail, but operating and maintenance costs would be far higher, and the report concludes that the economic benefits associated with the reopening of the line do not offset the costs involved.
An independent review of the EY report has also been published. It was carried out by the European Investment Bank's JASPERS agency, which found the need for the project had not been demonstrated and described the economic benefits as "unlikely to be significant".
The reports have been welcomed by the Western Rail Trail campaign, which is promoting the development of greenways along the route of the old rail line. But West On Track, which has been lobbying for the reopening of the Western Rail Corridor to almost two decades, is highly critical of both reports. It has questioned the costings put forward by EY, claiming the railway track could be reinstated for under €100m.
The costings are also being questioned by Galway East Independent TD Sean Canney, who says this is not the end of the road for the Western Rail Corridor, as the Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has committed to undertaking a Strategic Rail Review of the rail network on the entire island of Ireland.