Recently, I wrote a letter to this paper, which you kindly published, about the lack of proper rail and motorway infrastructures in the north-west of Ireland.
Since then, I have travelled from Dublin to Limerick, to Galway and back to Dublin by train, cost, €74, and also twice from Carrigans to Dublin and back – by car, needless to say.
The seven coach train to Cork pulled out of Heuston Station Platform 6b right on time, 1005. I was in one of the rear coaches, from which, as the train rounded a bend in the outer reaches of Heuston, I could see its engine and front coaches, pulling the train away in front. It was an impressive sight.
I was reminded of those huge trains on the Continent which travel between great European cities. The train passed through Co Kildare, much of the way along a four track railway, and alongside the M7 Dublin to Limerick motorway. It was reaching speeds of 160 km/h. It stopped at Portlaoise, Thurles and Limerick Junction. I changed there for Limerick.
I had to wait about an hour and a half for the train to Ennis, where I had lunch with an old friend. After
lunch, I travelled on the 1505 to Athenry and Galway. Then, I travelled on a full four coach train back to Heuston.
In 1976, the old Limerick to Sligo line was closed. In 2010, the line from Limerick to Ennis was reopened, and soon afterwards, the line was extended to Athenry, making a line from Cork to Limerick Junction, to Limerick and to Athenry and Galway.
West on Track is campaigning for this line to be extended to Tuam and Claremorris. If they succeed, which seems likely, this would link up the western end of the Dublin to Limerick, Dublin to Galway and Dublin to Westport lines.
The West Ulster Rail Initiative and West on Track are campaigning to get this line extended on from Claremorris to Sligo, and on to Bundoran, Ballyshannon, Donegal, through the Gap to Ballybofey/Stranorlar, Letterkenny and Newtowncunningham to Derry, and southwards from Limerick to Chareleville and Mallow to Cork. This would create a Derry to Cork Western Rail Corridor.
Such a line would be of enormous benefit to the whole country. Whereas Dublin and the east coast are highly developed, the West has been shamefully neglected, though the Adare to Tuam motorways redress this situation to some extent. The North-West region badly needs decent rail and road infrastructures, which will encourage industrial development, as well as environmental and tourism benefits, taking buses and heavy lorries and cars off the roads. It could be used by people travelling from Derry to Letterkenny, or Derry to Galway, or Sligo to Westport, or Claremorris to Ennis, or Limerick to Cork and so on. Students make much use of the Galway to Limerick line, so Derry and LYIT would benefit.
There should also be a proper road system alongside this railway. Such road, motorway and rail networks exist alongside each other on the Dublin to Enniscorthy, Dublin to Waterford, Dublin to Cork, Limerick and Galway routes, so why not Dublin to Sligo, and Dublin to Letterkenny and Derry routes as well. The M11 motorway has recently been extended from Just below Gorey, Co Wexford to bypass
Enniscorthy. The new section is 27 km long, same distance as Letterkenny to Lifford. So, why can‘t the N14 become part of the M14 Letterkenny to Lifford motorway, going on to bypass Strabane, Sion Mills, Omagh, Aughnacloy, and Emyvale to become the M2 to Dublin?
How long have we in the north-west got to wait until we get here rail and road facilities that have been created all over the rest of the country – remember, 20,000 people in Donegal have signed the petition – they represent over 500,000 more in the north west if you include Derry, Tyrone and Monaghan.
Others too have signed in their areas. Given time, thousands more could be obtained. People are always telling me just how wonderful it would be to have rail and motorway to Donegal.
The people of Donegal and the North West are fed up with having to put up with this 1950s road system, when the rest of the country enjoys 2010s rail and motorway facilities. Travelling to Dublin last week. I was stuck behind a horse box from Strabane to beyond Omagh at 60 km/h before I could overtake it. There have been roadworks near Emy Vale, going on for months, with no sign of being completed. Not only are these roadworks not straightening the road, they show no sign of being part of the M2 Dublin to Derry/Letterkenny motorway, which should be being built instead. North of Monaghan is outside the Pale as far as the Government is concerned. On the way back from Dublin, I was stuck behind a lorry from Aughnacloy to Newtownstewart. Why should we have to put up with this, when the people of Limerick, Galway, Cork and Waterford have motorways, The border is no excuse – in fact, it is the problem.
Minister Joe McHugh and I started this rail and road campaign twenty years ago, and we have, quite frankly, got nowhere, whereas the rest of the country in that time has leapt forward in terms of road and rail infrastructure. Writing to Ministers and Taoisigh is absolutely no use. You get a reply each time saying that they will pass your letter on and months later, a reply comes, which says nothing more than that they have received your letter. That is insulting. Why should the people of Donegal suffer this from our Government, especially as we pay our taxes too. Don’t we deserve better?
The way forward therefore, is through the people whom we elect as our TDs, who serve us well, and we thank them.
I am forwarding a copy of this letter to them all, and urging them all to get up in the Dail day after day, and challenge the Government to provide for the North West rail and road infrastructures, which when put in place, will be of benefit to the whole of our country. I also ask that everybody in Donegal write to our TDs demanding action, that they get up in the Dail and demand proper road and rail infrastructures here. If you want it, rail and motorway, demand it.
Just imagine that seven coach train taking all those buses and cars off the road, travelling from Connolly to Drogheda, Dundalk, Monaghan, Omagh, Strabane/ Lifford and Letterkenny in two hours. Just imagine a comfortable drive to Letterkenny on the M14 and M2 motorways, as well as on the M15, M17, M18 and M20 to Sligo, Galway, Limerick and Cork.
They have it - why shouldn’t we? The people of Donegal and the north-west have the same rights, and we demand them.
David W T Crooks, (Rev),
Chairman, West Ulster Rail Initiative,