All-Ireland Rail Network the way of the future
Sinn Féin Regional Development Spokesperson, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has said set out the arguments for the re-development of the all-Ireland rail network and called for co-operation between Ministers in Dublin and Belfast on a comprehensive transportation strategy.
Mr McCartney said:
"Politicians continuously talk about investment in the rail 'network' as if it actually exists. It doesn't. A century ago, Ireland had one of the most comprehensive rail networks in Western Europe.
"We need to accept that we don't have a 'rail network' but we need one. What we have is a 'line' connecting Belfast to Dublin, a link to Larne and what passes for a link between Belfast and Derry which is so sub-standard trains that commuters will not use it. Donegal, Sligo and west of Shannon are no better served.
"Co-operation between Belfast and Dublin on a strategic plan is required, driven and co-coordinated at Ministerial level to create a proper all-island rail network. This would include a comprehensive reassessment of how we move freight as well as passengers. This could reduce road traffic congestion and protect the environment by reducing toxic emissions.
"The economic benefits of regenerating an all-Ireland rail network should not be underestimated. It would address the infrastructural deficiencies that are often cited as the main factors for failure to attract sustainable investment to regions outside the Dublin/Belfast axis.
"Strategic transport planning is one of the areas for co-operation and implementation under the North South Ministerial Council's remit.
"The Ministerial Council has the potential to effect fundamental change for the benefit of all the people on this island. The re-establishment of the rail link from Derry joining with the Belfast to Dublin line at Newry, the extension of the Belfast/Derry link to Letterkenny/Sligo and beyond and the associated new investment would not only transform the economic fortunes of the Northwest of Ireland but would help strengthen the economic fabric of the island as a whole.
"Sinn Féin is under no illusion about the financial investment of such a regeneration programme. The Executive and the Irish government must realise that the solution to under-development, devastating damage to the environment, vandalism of our cultural heritage etc. lies in the development and implementation of long-term transportation strategies.
"The re-establishment of an all-island Rail network would also surely attract support from the EU. The Executive and the Irish government could develop joint proposals for the deployment of European Structural Funds for such an ecologically protective and economically productive venture. The EU in its concern about the disastrous consequences of climate change is already discussing radical proposals to reinstate rail as the preferred option for freight and the preferred option for freight and passenger traffic in the future." ENDS