Varadkar move blocked funding for western projects

April 5, 2018

An application for EU funding for transport projects in the west and northwest was dropped following the intervention of Leo Varadkar when he was minister for transport, newly disclosed documents reveal.

Projects such as the western rail corridor and the upgrading of Galway and Sligo airports were deleted from an EU-wide transport programme in 2011 at the behest of Mr Varadkar, according to the documents.

The change went ahead despite Mr Varadkar being warned by a party colleague that it could close off the projects from EU funding “for good”.

The current Government, which includes a number of Independent Alliance TDs from western constituencies, is now seeking to reverse the exclusion of western projects from the European Commission’s Trans-European Transport Network (Ten-T) programme. However, the documentation obtained under freedom of information shows this has been stalled by a need to “assess the implications of Brexit”.

Mr Varadkar’s decision effectively deprived transport projects north of Limerick of any prospect before 2030 of qualifying for EU funding under criteria which dictates there must be a rail, road, air, sea and cross-Border elements.

The Ten-T programme has renewed relevance for Ireland in the context of Brexit, as it provides potential funding for direct transport links to the European continent.

In early 2011 the Fianna Fáil minority government submitted the western/Atlantic road and rail cross-Border route from Cork to Derry, including the Limerick-Foynes rail line and the N69 Limerick to Foynes road, for Ten-T approval, the documents show.

Let’s have a little courage!

March 6, 2018

Western People Editorial 5 March 2018

This newspaper’s recent editorial on the proposed greenway along the route of the Western Rail Corridor has provoked a lot of hot air on social media forums; indeed, more hot air has been generated than would be required to run several steam engines along the 115-mile route from Limerick to Sligo. Much of the commentary – if one could even label it that – is little more than the ramblings of a petulant peloton who are outraged at the notion that in a democracy there might be somebody who disagrees with their particular point of view. Indeed, Donald Trump’s early morning tweets seem positively sane in light of some of the recent statements from these wannabe cyclists.

Thankfully, the position of the greenway promoters has been articulately and cogently expounded by John Mulligan, and this newspaper is more than happy to publish his exposition, not least because it offers an opportunity to critically analyse the proposal for a greenway through the heart of our province.

Mr Mulligan cites the Deise Greenway as an example of what could be achieved with the Western Rail Corridor were we to turn it into a greenway, and posits the question: were the promoters of the Deise Greenway ‘misguided’? The answer to that is, of course, ‘no’. However, had the Deise Greenway campaigners sought to construct a cycle path on the rail-link between Waterford and Dublin, they would most certainly have been ‘misguided’. And therein lies the problem with Mr Mulligan’s thesis.

The Western Rail Corridor is not even remotely comparable to the Deise Greenway or the Great Western Greenway in West Mayo. It is a closed regional line, connecting two urban centres and potentially an international airport.

If we are to accept the Government’s contention that it intends to invest heavily in regional population centres like Galway and Sligo over the next 20 years, then we must also recognise the importance of the Western Rail Corridor in an overall plan for our province. The idea that we would allow these flagship urban centres to be connected by a cycling track is not just misguided, it’s mad. That rail line has the potential to play a crucial role in creating a new commuter society in towns like Claremorris, Kiltimagh, Swinford, Charlestown, and Tubbercurry. People may work in Galway or Sligo but they will be within a convenient commute of their place of employment, provided Irish Rail gets its act together and invests in high-speed trains.

Mr Mulligan reminisces at length on the railways of the American Wild West, so much so that one wonders if he has been watching too many old Westerns. Rail transport has actually modernised considerably in America since those far-off days when Jesse James and his band of merry men were robbing the Glendale train, and the country’s rail network – far from being consigned to a dim and distant past – remains a crucial part of its transportation system. Indeed, countries like Japan and Germany, who would hardly be regarded as slouches when it comes to embracing. a ‘forward-looking’ economic philosophy, continue to invest heavily in their rail networks, and it is troubled economies like Argentina, which closed much of its network during the military junta of the 1970s and 1980s, that have abandoned a tried and test form of transportation.

Mr Mulligan also refers to “dirty industries” coming to the West of Ireland from China. Nobody has mentioned anything about “dirty industries”; in fact, Ballina Beverages was cited as a current example of the importance of rail links in the West of Ireland and it could hardly be described as a “dirty industry”.

However, we could take something from China that might prove useful in a reimagined West of Ireland – some high-speed trains that could herald a new era of rail commuting in Connacht.

The proposal for a green way on the route of the Western Rail Corridor is not only misguided, it is hopelessly defeatist. The premise of many of those who promote it seems to be that if we cannot get a slice of the national cake we may as well make do with the crumbs from the table. Had our ancestors adopted such an attitude they would have taken to the bed after the 1916 Easter Rising instead of going out into the hills and valleys of Connacht to secure political independence for those who came after them.

How we use that hard-won independence in the 21st century will ultimately dictate how we are viewed by the generations who come after us. Building a cycling track through the heart of our province is the easy option but it would be tantamount to a betrayal of those who campaigned so vociferously for western development since the foundation of the State. We owe it to them to have a little more ambition, courage and belief in ourselves.

Growth of 22% on Galway – Limerick Rail Services in 2016

November 16, 2017

Patronage on the Galway Limerick Intercity rail line has soared 22% in 2016 pointing to annualized passenger numbers of 420,600.

The annual rail survey by the National Transport Authority finds that 1,402 people travelled Galway-Limerick on census day, 17 November 2016, an increase of 22% on 2015.

With rail passengers counted six days a week throughout the year, this would equate to 420,600 passengers in 2016. The Business Case for Galway-Limerick had projected 220,000 by 2020. In fact, patronage has almost doubled – fully three years earlier than projected. And while rail travel nationally is up 19% between 2012 and 2016, the increase for Galway-Limerick is 38%.

“Rail is enjoying a renaissance,” said a West on Track spokesman. “These figures confirm the findings of the Cicero report of 2015 and show this rail route is one of the fastest-growing links in the country. There is no justifiable reason for further delay in the reinstatement of train services between Galway and Mayo.”

Co. Mayo.
Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Plug Mayo into Motorway Network

September 27, 2017

Claremorris Chamber of Commerce has called on the Government to sanction the planned motorway between Galway and Mayo in its forthcoming capital spending plan.

Ahead of the opening of the M17-M18 Gort-Tuam motorway on Wednesday 27 September, the business group said plugging Mayo into the national motorway network would be a huge boost for regional development.

“The original plan was to build the motorway from Gort to Claremorris”, said spokesman Kealan Flynn. “With Gort-Tuam now open, and an extra €4 billion for capital spending, money is not a problem. The Design Report, EIS and CPO documents for the 28 km from Tuam to Claremorris are done. The CPOs could be issued today. The next stage of the Atlantic Corridor could be open 18 months after the first sod is turned. A short stretch from Claremorris to the N5 – and Castlebar and Westport would also be linked to the national motorway network”, he added.

The Government has pledged an Atlantic Economic Corridor to enable the west to catch up the east. With the Cork-Limerick motorway a national priority, a three-city region – Cork, Limerick, Galway – is taking shape. Extending the motorway from Galway, first to Mayo and then to Sligo, pulls in the west and north-west, and puts an all-island, post-Brexit economy within reach. The Atlantic Economic Corridor is supported by 2,250 Irish-owned and multinational firms employing 73,500 people in the west, mid-west and north-west regions.

Claremorris Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Government to ensure the west and north-west regions get a fair share of the spend from the capital plan due by year-end.


Further information: Kealan Flynn, Cicero Communications, 0877 474747

High Speed Broadband: Today in the Irish Times

June 5, 2015

There’s a story about high-speed broadband in Claremorris, in today’s Irish Times:

Silverbridge Centre Works Completed

September 18, 2013

The Silverbridge Centre in Claremorris, spruced up just a year after Claremorris Chamber of Commerce brokered a deal involving NAMA,Mayo County Council and Conway Builders to have the derelict area cleared and landscaped. There is new hoarding around the building, a new footpath crosses the green area, and a knee-high wooden fence now circles the site. “The link between town centre and shopping centre is restored,” says Claremorris Chamber president Jimmy Flynn. “This is good for the commercial fabric of Claremorris and the shopping experience in Claremorris. There’s a wide-open green space here for a big crowd. All we need now is the Sam Maguire!”

Before Silverbridge Work sliverbridge work completed

Pictured as the finishing touches are applied are Eugene Waldron, Jimmy Flynn and Sheila Hunt of Claremorris Chamber.

Motorway Back on Track

July 20, 2012

The Chamber is delighted that the Government have given the go-ahead for
the M17-M18 Tuam-Gort motorway. This is critical infrastructure – vital to our
town and region. Work could start as early as next year and should take about
three years. The motorway will begin about 10 miles south of Claremorris and
will cut the journey time to Galway in half.

Representatives of the Chamber have since met Transport Minister Leo
Varadkar to discuss the detail and to lobby him to sanction the next phase of
the motorway, from Milltown to Claremorris. It’s too soon to say when money will
be available. However, we will continue to lobby hard for the next phase, as we
have successfully done for this one.

The road approved this week adds to the attractiveness of Claremorris as a
place to do business. It’s yet another resource to add to the stockpile we have,
including industrial-grade electricity, broadband and natural gas connectivity.
Claremorris now offers industry 110kV power supplies, 156Mb broadband speeds,
and connectivity to Corrib when it comes on stream.

Claremorris Railway Station Celebrate 150 years

July 18, 2012

Claremorris Railway Celbrates 150 years

Chamber Pressing Government & NRA for N17 Motorway Upgrade

February 26, 2012

N17-N18 Tuam-Gort MotorwayClaremorris Chamber is pressing the Government and National Roads Authority to use the same funding formula that got the N7-N11 Arklow-Newlands Cross motorway started, to be used for funding the N17-N18 Tuam-Gort motorway.

A €100m PPP involving the Government, European Investment Bank and Bank of Ireland means the new N7-N11 Arklow-Newlands Cross road will be open by 2014.

If the NRA can work up a similar PPP for the N17-N18 Tuam-Gort, there’s a good chance it could be finished by 2017. The Chamber can then push hard for the much shorter new stretch from Claremorris to Milltown to be prioritised.

The NRA, though strapped for cash itself, wants to get the N17-N18 Tuam-Gort built sooner rather than later. It says the construction will be cash-positive for the Exchequer from 2013-2016 and it intends to put that case to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar once it proves that project funding is available. The indications are that the preparatory work on the private financing will be done towards the end of this year.

The new, 57-km N17-N18 Tuam-Gort road, which will meet the Tuam bypass south of Milltown, is part of the ‘Atlantic Corridor’ between Letterkenny and Waterford. For connectivity, it’s as important as our high-speed, fibre-optic Metro MAN in making Claremorris a hotspot for investment.

The N17-N18 Tuam-Gort, which is to be done via PPP, stalled when the recession began and private funding dried up. But important steps have already been taken and more are planned, which we hope will get the project started before long. The statutory approval is in place and a preferred bidder picked to build and manage the road. Outstanding is the funding. That’s what we’re chasing.

We’ll keep you posted.

$300m undersea fibre-optic cable to connect to Claremorris

December 10, 2011

Claremorris is set to get connected to the new $300m transatlantic fibre optic telecommunications cable linking the US and Canada directly to the UK and Europe via County Mayo.

Welcoming the news, the Chamber of Commerce says it strengthens the town’s position for inward investment, especially for high-tech companies that depend on world-class telecoms.

With a Metropolitan Area Network already delivering lightning-fast, fail-safe broadband to the two big high-tech employers in Claremorris, CBE and DeCare Dental Insurance, the stage is now set for a determined push for new broadband-hungry industries in cloud computing, data centres and gaming software. These companies will have instant access, both to the existing gigabit speeds already available in Claremorris and to speeds measured in terabits per second from the undersea fibre optic cable.

Claremorris Chamber congratulates developers, Emerald Networks and PiPiper, and promoters Mayo County Council and the Department of Communications. This initiative consolidates the position of Claremorris at the intersection of the north-south and east-west arteries of fibre, electricity, road and rail infrastructures. Claremorris is also located just 30km (20 miles) from Ireland West Airport Knock.

If you’re wondering how an undesea fibre optic cable gets laid, there’s an interesting video right here.


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