A rail spur linking Shannon Airport to the Ennis-Limerick railway has been effectively ruled out by Transport Minister Shane Ross after the matter was raised in the Seanad by Fine Gael Senator Kieran O’Donnell.
As a member of the Mid-West Regional Authority in 2004, Senator O’Donnell recalled that the issue was very much to the fore. He believes, “there is both a logistical and financial logic to providing a spur from Shannon Airport onto the existing Limerick to Galway rail line.”
Following its reopening in 2010, Senator O’Donnell believes there is now a functioning line in place and if a spur is added it will not only link Shannon Airport to Limerick but to Galway as well.
He added, “Sixmilebridge would appear to be the logical location for a spur to Shannon Airport which would involve a distance of approximately six miles. However, Cratloe is another option. A spur could be run along the existing road, the N18, into Shannon Airport. That would be a shorter distance.”
Putting his proposal in context, Senator O’Donnell said he does not expect it to happen overnight “but it must be considered in terms of the overall public transport network, regional development and the serious issues that arise in the capacity of Dublin Airport.”
Furthermore, he said, “Shannon Airport has excess capacity available. We can deal with 4 million passengers and the current level is approximately 1.6 million.
“In the future, we could have a super train commuting from Limerick to Dublin in an hour. I want the Minister to build in the option into the transport plan.
“It should be examined as part of the overall review of Irish Rail, public transport and other related issues. We must have a counter-pull to Dublin along the western seaboard involving Limerick, Galway, Cork and Sligo.”
However, Minister Ross explained, “This is an ambitious Government which is not frightened of spending on infrastructure and is absolutely determined to do so. That said, we will not do anything irresponsible.”
He added, “in 2007 a feasibility study was carried out on behalf of Iarnród Éireann on a rail link to Shannon Airport and it concluded that the economic case for the rail link was poor.
“The feasibility study indicated the cost of a Shannon rail link would range from €246 million to €440 million at 2006 prices, excluding enhanced onward links to Galway which were also assessed.
“A Shannon rail link is not identified as a priority in the Government’s capital investment plan, Building on Recovery 2016-2021.
“Iarnród Éireann remains in a challenging position financially and has limited resources of its own available to fund new projects.”
Responding to the Minister, Senator O’Donnell said he merely wanted to plant a seed of the idea by proposing a spur from Shannon Airport to the existing Limerick-Galway rail line.