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Varadkar throws a spanner in the works

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has thrown a major spanner in the works as regards plans by Irish Rail to develop a stop at Crusheen.
The minister has asked Irish Rail to revisit proposals for the stop at Crusheen, as part of the Western Rail Corridor, because of the €2m cost projection. He wants Irish Rail to examine if a lower cost alternative is feasible.

Earlier this year Clare County Council gave the green light for the rail stop in the village of Crusheen. The works are part of a planned upgrade on the €106m Rail Corridor that was opened three years ago between Ennis and Galway.

However, in a written Dáil reply to Deputy Timmy Dooley, Minister Varadkar said, “My department’s capital funding for rail infrastructure was reduced last year in order to support the emergency funding required for the CIE group. 

“As a result of the reduced capital funding, Irish Rail have had to re-evaluate their planned capital programme to 2016, with the priority being to protect existing assets and to maintain safety standards.

“In the context of this, I have asked Irish Rail to revisit their current proposals for Crusheen rail stop which has a construction cost in the order of €2m and see if a lower cost alternative is feasible. It is my intention to provide for a rail stop at Crusheen.”

Corporate communications manager of Irish Rail, Barry Kenny, said the works proposed for Crusheen include the platform, track level alterations, signalling works and equipment. He emphasised that €2.1m “is the going rate in such circumstances”.

Mr Kenny admitted that there is a limited scope for a lower cost project for Crusheen station, as what is proposed is a simple one-platform station. He also explained that “there are no immediate plans to proceed with the rail stop”.

He added, “Crusheen is not provided for in our 2013 capital budget and will be assessed in the context of our 2014 capital funding which will prioritise, as the minister details, maintaining safety and protection of existing assets”.

On passenger traffic, Mr Kenny said overall numbers for the route from Limerick to Galway were up last year from 224,000 to 235,000. Passenger numbers for the year to June 16 are 94,000 – down from the 2012 figure of 99,000 for the equivalent period.

Irish Rail also confirmed that numbers continue to decline on the new section of the line between Ennis and Athenry. Last year 34,200 travelled on the route, compared to 11,900 for the first six months of 2013.

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