Brussels: North West has missed out on rail link until 2023 at least

Brussells  EU
Brussells EU

EUROPEAN Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas’ office has advised the Sentinel there’s no chance a North Western rail link can be included on the EU funded trans-european network until 2023 at the earliest thanks to the Dublin Government’s failure to propose its inclusion.

The Directorate indicated the Dublin Government has missed an opportunity to put forward a North West rail link for inclusion on the wider trans-European transport network (TEN-T) and will now have to wait until 2023 for the window to open again.

A spokesperson told the Sentinel: “This is really an internal Irish issue. Ireland is responsible for how they spend regional funds.

“Ireland has never requested inclusion of the rail line you mention [the Western Rail Corridor from Sligo to Limerick with a potential extension to Londonderry] in the trans-European transport network (the ‘TEN-T;); and the Commission would need the approval of the member state to include such infrastructure in the TEN-T.”

Furthermore, the spokesperson said the opportunity to put a western rail link proposal into the ring for EU funding has now passed.

“In any event, now that negotiations on the TEN-T have closed, there is no way to include this line before 2023.

“I understand that Transport Minister Varadkar, and the Parliament’s transport committee, support the Commission’s position on this,” the spokesperson said.

Rail lobbies such as the Londonderry based Into the West and the Sligo based West on Track have both raised the possibility of including local rail infrastructure in the west of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on the trans-european network with a view to drawing down funding.

A top level Brussels committee recently wrote to the Dublin Transport Minister to say it regretted North Western railways hadn’t benefited from more EU development funding.

Erminia Mazzoni, the Chairman of the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, wrote to Mr Varadkar in July after reviewing a petition from the West On Track group, which is campaigning for better rail infrastructure up the west coast of the island.

Ms Mazzoni wrote: “On the basis of all considerations, the Committee on Petitions regrets that the West/North West Region appears to not have benefited from European Regional Development (ERDF) funding, and that no ex-ante public consultation was reportedly carried out.

“In addition, the Committee takes the view that the Irish authorities should request the inclusion of (all or part of) the Western Rail Corridor as an element for consideration during the preparation of the revision of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) guidelines.”

If this happened, it could have potential implications for a prospective cross-border rail link between Londonderry and Donegal.

Northern Ireland Rail Minister Danny Kennedy recently punted the decision on a cross-border link to his counterpart in Leinster House.

He stated: “Irish Rail’s Rail Strategy Network Review, published in 2011, considered the proposal to create a new rail connection from Londonderry into Donegal and beyond; the conclusion of which was that it would not be economically viable to do so in the period up to 2030.”

But according to the mid-term evaluation of the TEN-T programme (2007-2013), which was published in March 2011, cross-border projects like the one suggested are exactly the kind that could be funded.