The Western Rail Corridor has been supported by all the main political parties and by the local and regional authorities of the counties through which it passes. The case for its reopening has been articulated, among others, by Dr. Martin Mansergh in the Irish Times, (Restored Western Rail Corridor will reinvigorate west), 21st May 2005, , in the Sunday Independent (Lack of road and rail links' killing tourism in west), 14th August 2005, , by the Irish Hotels Federation, (Plans for Increased Regional Access Vital for Tourism Spread throughout Ireland), 13th February 2006, , in The Irish Times by the Western Development Commission (Let's put the west back on track), 12th June 2006, , in The Irish Times by the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, (Decentralisation, the WRC and Regional Development), 19th June 2006, , in the Irish Independent (Gridlock in Galway City), 14th August 2006, , by the Union of Students in Ireland, (Students call for Western Rail Corridor to re-open), Western People 6th September 2006, , and in the findings of a TG4 opinion poll in October 2006 (Opinion Poll Findings show Significant Passenger Demand for Western Rail Corridor ),
Questions have been raised about its viability by an editorial in the Irish Times, by an article in the Irish Independent,, by an article in the Clare People, by the lobby group, Platform 11 and by the Strategic Rail Review, 2003 Critics say that southern sections of the scheme are more viable than those closer to Sligo. Arguments against the reopening centre mostly on the wisdom of providing train services given the dispersed population patterns of the region. As the route from Ennis to Claremorris has now been approved under Transport 21, these arguments now apply only to the section between Claremorris and Collooney that has not yet received funding.
Opponents of the project counter that the railway would have few passengers and require an annual subsidy.
However, Frank McDonald in an article in the Irish Times, based on information released under the Freedom of Information Act indicated that the report was rewritten to exclude any negative assessment of the viability of the project including a forecast that it would 'attract only 750 passengers per day and could require an annual subvention of up to €10 million'.
Criticisms of the Report have included the reliance on anecdotal testimony regarding freight demand and the absence of costings for rolling stock and operating expenses.
Opponents argue that rail freight volumes in the country have dropped near to zero in recent years and that indirect freight routes already exist from most large towns in the region.
Opponents predict that, following the failure of the line to attract significant passenger numbers, future rail projects will have difficulty gaining funding in Ireland.
Project opponents, however, argue that the local councils are not following land use policies that would create centres of population density around the railway stations along this route, but instead are continuing to permit isolated rural housing.
The report recommended the reopening of most of the Corridor in three phases and the deferral of the reopening of the northernmost section:
Frank Dawson, Director of Services for Galway County Council and a member of the Western InterCounty Railway Committee (which preceded the founding of West on Track but continues in existence) presented a paper to members of the Oireachtas on 5 October 2005 entitled Gold in the Ox Mountains. This new paper offers some criticisms of the Report as written by Mr. McCann. Mr. Dawson rejects the notion of strict cost-benefit in favour of "balanced regional development", claiming:
McCann conceded that re-opening Claremorris to Sligo would be very difficult to justify except on the grounds of balanced regional development.
That’s sounds to me like our national policy towards balanced regional development is optional.
Following preliminary works in Winter and Spring of 2005-2006, official clearance work on the northern section of the line (Claremorris to Collooney) began on the 18th September. The work will be carried out by Iarnród Éireann over the next year.The purpose of the works is to re-establish the boundaries, prevent further deterioration of the line section and prevent any development that may otherwise impinge on the proposed detailed works required for the reopening of the line. Specifically, the works include fencing, hedge cutting, renewal of level crossing gates as well as the provision of some essential drainage, removal of ivy and overgrowth from bridges and the provision of mile posts. The first tracks began to be laid on Friday November 16th 2007 on the line between Ennis and Athenry.
On 26 September 2006, Minister for Transport Martin Cullen announced Government approval of funding for the reopening of the Ennis–Athenry section of the WRC, as well as the Athenry–Tuam section. Iarnród Éireann is to proceed with detailed planning and design of the project, including consultation with land owners and local authorities, as well as design of bridges and level crossings. The track renewal began in early 2007, with completion due in 2008 (for Ennis–Athenry)and an expected 7 trains per day in each direction..
The Ennis to Athenry railway will serve Limerick, Ennis, as well as new stations at Gort, Ardrahan and Craughwell, and Athenry and Galway. In addition, it will expand commuter links to Limerick and Galway. The Limerick to Galway service will also feed into expanded intercity services between Limerick and Dublin and between Galway and Dublin. Both routes are set for hourly services at peak and two hourly off-peak by 2008.
The investment project to be delivered by Iarnród Éireann involves a renewal of 58 km (36 mi) of track, including all necessary fencing and drainage and the installation of points and crossings at Gort and Ennis. A single 90 metres platform with furniture, shelter, signage, car park, PA, customer information systems, help point and CCTV provision will be provided at Gort, Ardrahan and Craughwell. These stations will also be accessible to the mobility impaired.
Customer Information Systems, PA, help-point and CCTV will be provided at Athenry and Ennis stations. Repair and improvement work will be undertaken on bridges on the route to allow rail services to operate. There will also be modernised signalling systems and improvement to level crossings.
How the 'underspend' joy could give way to tears The smallest necklace of generosity in the good times can turn into a millstone
Sep 12, 2003; HAPPY is the government that has the "problem" of underspend. Exuberant is its style and largesse its middle name. But it...