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A rail spur to Shannon Airport is among the most significant Clare aspects to the €165bn National Development Plan (NDP).

In what represents the largest NDP set to be delivered in the State, the 2021-2030 plan includes a number of Clare projects such as the redevelopment of Regina House in Kilrush, the Killaloe Bypass, construction of 51 social housing units in Shannon, an upgrade of wastewater treatment plants in Lahinch and Clonroadmore plus the conclusion of the Shannon flood relief scheme, a new aircraft hangar for Shannon Airport and investment in the State’s office portfolio in Shannon.

Plans to develop a new commuter rail network through the provision of a rail spur to Shannon Airport stands out in the NDP which has no mention of the Western Rail Corridor. Direct rail spur links on the Limerick to Galway line will see Shannon Airport connect with the town, Bunratty, Cratloe, Sixmilebridge and Ennis.

Costings and a timeline of delivery for the identified projects have not been included in the NDP.

New life has been breathed into dormant plans for the rail link, Clare TD Cathal Crowe (FF) acknowledged. “I am delighted to see that the long-awaited rail connection for Shannon Airport has been committed to, which will mean Shannon will be the country’s first airport with a rail link”. He added, “This will see the airport have a direct rail spur link to the existing Limerick to Galway line, meaning passengers can easily access the two cities as well as towns like Ennis and Sixmilebridge and so on by train upon arrival into Ireland”. Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) felt Shannon served as a “key priority” within the NDP.

More people will choose to fly from Shannon as a result of the rail link, Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) maintained. “Not only that but it will greatly improve the connectivity of the Town of Shannon, who are currently working on their Town Centre Master Plan”.

With Clare accounting for 2.5 percent of the national population, greater funding should have been allocated to projects in the county under the NDP, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) argued as he lamented the absence of any plans for a 24/7 A&E hospital.

Flynn was very welcoming of the rail link’s inclusion. “There may be up to four stations along the rail route from its proposed take-off from the main Limerick Ennis railing at Cratloe. The indicative route shows potential rail stations at Bunratty, Shannon Town Centre, Shannon Industrial Estate and Shannon Airport itself. I believe this Shannon rail connectivity would improve sustainable transport, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the growth in passenger traffic at the airport.

Shannon Airport has potential to draw passengers “from everywhere” with the planned addition of the rail link, Cllr John Crowe (FG) stated. “It is very positive for the whole of Co Clare and especially for Shannon Airport to have a connection rail link to the Airport, it is absolutely fantastic”. He stressed the need for it to link with Sixmilebridge and cited the current infrastructure at the railway station there, “It is a massive vote of confidence to have a new chair of Shannon Group and with two American flights, it is a major boost for the whole area”.

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