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18th Jul 2023

New rail proposal could see trains return to Donegal for first time in 60 years

Simon Kelly

Back on track.

A new rail proposal could see counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan reconnected to the national rail network for the first time in decades.

An all-island review is set to be published later this month, with minister Eamon Ryan emphasising that it will focus on re-establishing rail links from Claremorris to Athenry and from Waterford to Rosslare, forming an “Atlantic railway spine” through the country from Ballina to Wexford.

While the plans primarily centre around freight transport, the proposals will facilitate further plans for commuter rail services.

Speaking during a visit to New York, the Green Party leader told the Irish Times that the plans would see Donegal return to the Irish railway network for the first time since the 1960s. It would link up the existing Dublin-Belfast line at Portadown, through Dungannon, Omagh, Strabane, Letterkenny and Derry.

“Those towns are not small towns and Donegal needs a public transport connection south.”

Much of the Irish rail network was closed off and removed in the 50s and 60s due in part to the increasing reliance on cars.

The new proposal involves short, medium and long-term plans which will be implemented over a thirty year period.

Mr Ryan pointed out that the plans will bring a balance to the country, of which the rail network has been heavily centred around the capital city.

“It brings better balanced regional development. You can’t do everything in Dublin. Dublin is going to get significant development in the Metro, Dart Plus and Bus Connects.

“If we don’t invest in the rest of the country, particularly in rail infrastructure, we would see an imbalance develop in the country. These are the sort of investments we need to make to guarantee the economic future of the country.”

Green Party Eamon Ryan

Wait times for transport projects are too long, says Eamon Ryan

The minister also noted that transport planning can take years to implement and legislation needs to be reformed in order to lessen the wait times for projects to come to fruition.

“In our experience it takes about ten years to get a bus lane through planning to development. It is taking 20 years to build rail lines. And that is too long. For everyone’s sake we start improving those timelines.

“It is not to remove rights to appeal and the right to having good planning. But it cannot take so long. And the planned introduction of legislation in September to reform the planning system is critical.

“The current system does not serve anyone’s interest. It keeps everything in a very expensive, very convoluted, very uncertain legal process. And that has to change.”

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