ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES ARE CONFIDENT that the business case for reopening the Crusheen stop on the Western Rail Corridor is stronger than ever.

Originally built in the 1860s, Crusheen railway station closed in 1976 for passenger traffic and in the 1990s for freight traffic.

In October 2010, then Minister for Defence and Clare TD, Tony Killeen (FF) was the first to announce the allocation of €1.5m for the provision of a rail stop in Crusheen. He along with retired councillor, Michael Kelly (FF) previously proposed its reopening.

Planning permission was then granted for a new station in 2011 but the project was “not provided for” in Iarnród Éireann’s 2013 budget.

Another former Clare TD, Michael Harty (IND) sought to reopen the rail stop in 2019 but he was told by Iarnród Éireann’s CEO Jim Meade that there was no funding and “no provision for a station” in Crusheen.

Nothing has changed in the interval regarding the stance of Iarnród Éireann or the addition of extra funding.

Nonetheless, the presence of the Greens in Government has led to East Clare councillors becoming more optimistic that trains could once again stop in Crusheen.

Transportation policy and priorities over the coming years will be determined by the Clare Transportation Strategy, work on which has yet to hit second gear. The Limerick-Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (LSMATS) which is near conclusion will also influence new projects in the region.

Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) recently proposed “that a strong business case be made” for its reopening. “Over the last number of years there have been a number of housing developments in Crusheen and adjoining areas and a large growth in population in the area without any upgrade of services and a strong push to use public transport and I believe that it is imperative that we make the case to get the station reopened again”.

Senior planner with Clare County Council, Brian McCarthy recalled that the reopening was supported in the 2017-2023 County Development Plan by the safeguarding of lands along the rail route “to provide for the necessary infrastructure to facilitate a train stop”. The Draft Development Plan 2023-2029 ‘fully supports and encourages the reopening of the station’.

McCarthy committed to engaging with the National Transport Authority “to review the potential of reopening the Crusheen Railway Station”. He said the Council’s transportation department would liaise with the NTA and Iarnród Éireann “with a view to advocating the Crusheen railway station be reopened”.

Crusheen’s “huge development of houses” strengthened the case, Cllr Hayes maintained. “We have an opportunity to improve transport and connectivity. We need to step up to the mark. We’re not asking a whole lot for Crusheen, you can purchase a ticket online, it will be a case of hopping on and off, it’s not the West Clare Railway”. He continued, “If the opportunity was there to hop on a train to go into Ennis or up to Galway, look at what it would be doing for the environment, try make that incremental step”.

Hayes argued, “We have an open door if we make any effort to push this case, I can’t see why not, I think we’re doing a disservice for the county. It is a critical piece of infrastructure that can make a difference. We do fully support the reopening of the line to Sligo, it is balanced regional development”.

Inviting Iarnród Éireann before the Killaloe Municipal District would be movement in the right direction, Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) stated. “We can be proactive as a Municipal District. It’s not a huge ask, we need a direct approach with a letter from this Municipal District to the NTA and Irish Rail and invite them here to ask them what their plans are for it and encourage them to have a meeting with a view to opening this and putting forward a case for opening it. This isn’t a huge job but it will mean the world to the catchment area to have it open”.

This approach was backed by Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe MD, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) who pointed out that Jim Meade is living in Bunratty. “He could brief us or attend a special meeting. We know the phenomenal success the Limerick to Galway line has been, it is growing all the time, I’m living close to it and when you see the train passing it is pretty full, we’re trying to emphasise public transport. A lot of old people go onto the train at Sixmilebridge from different catchments like O’Callaghans Mills and Broadford, Crusheen would do the same. It is very handy for old people to park up for the day and head off on the train, I see massive number of students using the train too”.

Efforts of Michael Kelly were referenced by Cllr Joe Cooney (FG). “It is no good writing, we need to go and meet whoever we need to meet,” he stressed.

“We’re all on the green agenda with public transport,” Cllr Pat Burke (FG) quipped. “In 1961, people sat around the table to decide to close Foynes line and now it is reopening,” he said mentioning the plans announced in November for a €104m upgrade. “Why was it ever closed down, we’ve come full circle and the importance of Crusheen stop is now vital in the scheme of things, it will have to happen, all that’s needed is for the train to stop and people to be able to get on and off”.

Public transport’s role in getting to students to and from and college “is essential” given the lack of accommodation for students in Galway and Limerick, Cllr Hayes noted. “I don’t think a Green Minister could say it’s a bad idea, we’re building up Crusheen, Tulla and everywhere around,” he added.

Director of Services, Anne Haugh sought clarity from councillors on whether they wanted Iarnród Éireann to go before the County Council or the Killaloe MD. “The Shannon rail link has been well covered, I want to individualise the issue to one electoral area. We have the responsibility,” Hayes responded, keen to focus on matters solely in their electoral area.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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