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Call to fast-track flood relief work on Clare-Limerick line

TRANSPORT Minister Eamonn Ryan has been urged to approve funding to fast-track the completion of flood relief works costing an estimated €17 million on the Galway to Limerick rail line at Ballycar, writes Dan Danaher.

The plea was made this week by Councillor Alan O’Callaghan, who wants to see a long-term solution to this long-running saga.

Councillor O’Callaghan stressed that regardless of the high cost involved, this work needs to be completed to remove the uncertainty created by frequent closures on this vital piece of rail infrastructure for the West of Ireland.

The Fianna Fáil Councillor said one of the difficulties with Ballycar flooding is the long period of time for water to drain away once this area is inundated.

Clare County Council senior engineer in the roads and transportation department, John Leahy provided councillors with a briefing on the proposed flood relief works recently.

The local authority acted as a facilitator for this project, working in conjunction with the National Parks and Wildlife, Office Of Public Works and Iarnród Eireann, which would be the main beneficiary, if funding is approved.

Councillor O’Callaghan has welcomed the completion of a comprehensive plan to alleviate Ballycar flooding. He doesn’t believe Iarnród Eireann doesn’t have the resources to cover the cost of this work.

The proposed scheme includes major drainage and embankments near Finloe and Rossroe Lake.

One of the lakes is a Special Area of Conservation, which has environmental protections that have to be adhered to.

“The flooding protection works will involve an extensive programme. One of the turloughs has collapsed and that has to be repiped. There are a lot of underground rivers that are carrying the water away, which are blocked in places.

“The Limerick to Galway rail line was carrying more than 500,000 passengers annually, and was growing steadily before Covid-19. The rail line went from about 190,000 rail passengers in 2013 to 580,000 in 2019.

“It is good to see that a plan is now in place. I am hoping the Department of Transport will not put this work on the long finger because of the cost of it.

“When the Limerick to Galway rail line closes, it is often shut for four or five months because it takes so long for the water to drain away.”

While the rail tracks have been risen to minimise the impact of flooding, Councillor O’Callaghan pointed out this is no longer feasible.

“Passengers were often taken by bus from Sixmilebridge to the bus station in Ennis, which is not a long-term solution.

“I have used the train in the past. On Friday evenings, there isn’t even sitting room at busy times. A lot of college students use the Limerick to Galway rail line.

“Some locals believe there may be different solutions, but when you are dealing with a number of public bodies different boxes have to be ticked.

Previous passenger figures from Iarnród Éireann have shown the Limerick to Galway rail line is the fastest growing rail route in the country.

More than 91,000 journeys were recorded on the line up to March 24, 2019. This compared with 74,000 journeys for the same period in 2018.

According to Iarnród Éireann, a range of measures to boost demand included the introduction of intercity railcars on key service, free car parking at rural stations, additional marketing of tax saver tickets, online ticket sales and student travel as well as the opening of the Oranmore Station in 2013.

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