*Shannon Airport. 

ADARE hosting the Ryder Cup in 2027 strengthens the argument to finally get the rail spur to Shannon Airport on track.

Elected members of Clare County Council this week spoke strongly in favour of upping the tempo to try bring about a rail spur to Shannon Airport, a subject which has been debated in the Council Chamber for decades.

Reference to the provision of a rail spur to Shannon Airport is included in the €165bn National Development Plan which runs from 2021 to 2030 while it is also one of the key aspects of the revised draft Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (LSMATS).

Cllr John Crowe (FG) this week called on the Council to “arrange for a viability study to deal with a view of the possibility of a rail link service to link Ennis and Limerick with Sixmilebridge, Bunratty and Shannon Airport, to include Shannon Town Centre and the Industrial Estate. In turn this will give connectivity to many holiday makers and business, people not alone in the mid-west region but throughout Ireland, especially with the growth that is taken place at the Airport. This will help to maintain and drive same. It will benefit workers from Ennis, Limerick and surrounding areas to travel to Shannon. It will also help our environment to reduce cars and busses from our roads”.

Speaking at Monday’s meeting, Cllr Crowe said he had “significant interest in seeing this connection from Limerick to Ennis enhanced to include Sixmilebridge, Bunratty, Shannon Airport, Shannon Town Centre and the Industrial Estate”. Including this spur on the western rail corridor would be the a “counter-balance” to Dublin. The spur’s inclusion in the LSMATS “cemented the commitment to include a link on the western rail corridor,” he added.

Seconding the proposal, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) voiced disappointment with the flooding in Ballycar. The Ennis representative labelled himself as “a regular rail user”. He detailed that Iarnród Éireann have hired a Mayo company to provide a bus from Ennis for passengers travelling to Limerick, “we ended up in Cratloe and we couldn’t get through the bridge so we had to go back to Sixmilebridge, the current arrangement is appalling”. He maintained that the railway doesn’t need to be closed indefinitely and rather daily inspections plus train drivers reducing their speed on approach to Ballycar would suffice.

“It would be the first airport in the Republic to bring people by rail to it and if that were to come true, it would be fantastic,” Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) commented. The long-serving Fianna Fáil councillor noted the Green Party were in favour of the development, “they are one of the three parties in Govt and hopefully they can stay in Government”.

Shannon based Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) said he supported the requested but admitted he was not optimistic, “for the electorate listening, nothing is going to happen. I don’t think it would be right to get the expectation of the public raised”. He noted the work involved in securing the railway station for Sixmilebridge which has since become “a seasonal stop”. He continued, “if you don’t have connectivity to take you onto Galway or the rest of the country we’re snookered, I support what Cllr Crowe is looking for but I don’t think it will make one bit of difference”.

A more optimistic view was expressed by Cllr Ian Lynch (IND). He pointed out how “millions” were invested in Scotland in advance of the 2014 Ryder Cup, “if they can do it in Scotland I can’t see why it can’t be done here. No one is having the discussion. The opportunity is there, there is no doubt the Ryder Cup will bring us the opportunity”.

Carbon footprint is a regularly mentioned and the rail spur will help reduce this, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) flagged. “There are 10,000 people working in the Shannon Free Zone, there are 33 destinations from Shannon Airport this summer from five airlines, it is only practical to have this,” she said. “The car park is almost at capacity, we want to attract more destinations to and from the airport, the most efficient way to get to an airport is by rail,” the Ennis woman stated.

Flooding at Ballycar needs to be dealt with, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) stressed. “Trains from Limerick would have been full for the Munster championship in Ennis in two weeks time but the closure of the line is now going to be bringing a lot more cars into the town”.

Efforts of the late Sean Hillery (FF) in fighting for the rail spur was recalled by Cllr PJ Ryan (IND), “we owe it to some older members of the Council to keep following it up”.

Rail is “the way of the future and the rail system needs to be developed, it is a failure of our Government to have the system we have in Ballycar,” remarked Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF). “There is a solution to this, every landowner in the vicinity of Newmarket-on-Fergus knows the solution, we don’t need top drawer engineer only the funding,” said Cllr Michael Begley (IND)

Dublin Airport is “bursting at the seams,” Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) stated while referencing the tension between Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary and the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan (GP) on the passenger cap in the capital.

“If this was four miles outside Dublin, it would be done 30 years ago,” Cllr Pat Daly (FF) stated. He added, “We talk about NTA and Irish Rail, there is no point this being a talking shop, we need some results, people from the Midlands, Westmeath, Laois and Offaly could come straight onto the train, people from Galway would come as well, it is a very positive motion, we have to back it all the way, we need a strong letter going to the Minister”.

Introducing a rail spur would help the environment, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) felt. “From the tourism standpoint, it is essential that we can guarantee those coming from overseas that they could get fly into Shannon, get into Ennis and get to the tourist parts of North, West and East Clare. With so many people working in Shannon Ind Zone, it would be used as a mode of transport to get to work and cut down the traffic miles and help the environment”.

Mayor of Clare, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) supported the motion and renewed his criticism of the closure along the line from Limerick to Ennis. “It is a joke, a disgrace and a let-down to rural Ireland and the region,” he said. “If attention is not paid to the motion then we will be left behind,” he concluded.

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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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