I welcome this week's release of the draft All-Island Strategic Rail Review recommendations focused on increasing connectivity, frequency and quality of rail services for people of the Midlands.
The Review outlines Government’s strategy to make it faster and more feasible to travel by train.
Having had the opportunity to consider the recommendations I see a shift taking place. Right now, most rail lines run to and from Dublin. The Rail Review recommendations shift the emphasis towards the Midlands. If implemented, there will be a ‘diamond’ of new and upgraded rail connections in the heart of Ireland. This diamond is formed by the welcome reinstatement of the Athlone to Mullingar route, dual track improvements from Mullingar to Maynooth, upgraded connections to Hazelhatch and on to Portarlington and finally, Portarlington to Athlone, via Tullamore.
It is now a very real possibility that within the next 2 decades we will have fast, decarbonised rail connecting Derry to Cork without the need to travel further east than Portarlington. It makes sense that extending the dual-track between Portarlington – Athlone and Maynooth – Mullingar will allow more commuter services to serve intermediate stations while intercity services can deliver faster city-to-city journey times with proposed speeds of 200km/hr. These journeys will become more comfortable and frequent as new rolling stock is procured.
These are all recommended improvements which will directly impact on commuters and leisure travellers. The planned electrification of the services improves the environment and air quality for everybody. I particularly welcome the recommendation for an investment in the skills to deliver this electrification and decarbonisation and I see huge potential for enterprise development in this area. Rail infrastructure is expensive to deliver and needs a short, medium and long term strategy and I am delighted, thanks to Green Party participation in Government, that we have one now.
I am already working with Cllr Mark Hackett to progress the cycleway from Edenderry to Enfield. This was on hold pending the rail review but now it is important to forge ahead with an active travel proposal joining the two towns along the disused railway. The approximate 20 km cycle would expand options for commuter and recreational cyclists and be a huge boost for Edenderry.