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North West must be prioritised in establishment of integrated all-Ireland rail network - Pat Doherty MP

17 April, 2013 - by Westminster

Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has called for the development of strategic rail links in the northwest to be prioritized as part of the establishment of a truly integrated all-island rail network. The call is contained in the party’s submission to the Department of Regional Development consultation into future railway investment up to and beyond 2035.

He said,

“Infrastructure imbalance has been a major contributing factor in keeping the northwest the most peripheral and economically disadvantaged region of Ireland. 

“This is why Sinn Féin is so determined that the A5 dual carriageway proceeds and this is why we are now calling for the development of strategic rail links in the northwest to be prioritized as part of the establishment of a truly integrated all-island rail network.”

“The northwest is the only region of Ireland without a rail network.  . While Sinn Féin acknowledges that it would not be financially viable to re-introduce the extensive rail network that existed in the region prior to its demise, the priority must be to develop strategic rail links in the northwest which are linked into the existing rail transport corridors on the island so as to create a genuinely integrated and sustainable transport system on the island. 

“Specifically we have called for the continuation of the line from Derry line through Strabane –Omagh- to link in with the existing network at Portadown and the proposed ‘Western Arc’ project would include a Western rail network extending through from Belfast through Derry, Strabane, Donegal,  Sligo, Knock, Galway to Shannon/ Limerick. This project would go a very long way to re-establishing an all-Ireland rail network. 

“Sinn Féin recommends that an all-Ireland rail network should be a strategic priority and would recommend that an independent feasibility study into the costs and likely routes should be commissioned. Ireland as a whole should be linking in more to the wider EU policy agendas such as Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and the TEN-T programme.

“Sinn Féin is under no illusion about the massive financial investment a regeneration programme of this nature would involve. However, the Executive and the Irish government sees the solution in the implementation of long-term mutual transportation strategies. And there is much untapped financial assistance available at European level if the political will exists to present the project as an integral part of the Trans European Network.

“Given the certainty of ever-increasing road transport fuel costs in the years ahead, there is an over-riding need to invest in rail transport as a cost effective means of transporting freight and goods across the island. Investment in transport infrastructure in the most deprived areas in the west would also be a key catalyst to competitive growth and sustainable economic change.

“Such a project could form the basis for redressing the disastrous effects of the economic collapse of the banking and construction sectors throughout the island. The EU in its concern about the disastrous consequences of climate change is already considering radical proposals to reinstate rail as the preferred option for freight and passenger traffic in the future. 

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