- Use of Sligo-Mayo abandoned rail-bed for a walking/cycling greenway
- Council sought submissions from the public regarding the Draft Development Plan for the county
- This current / second submission follows on from the Manager’s report to Councillors
I would draw the attention of staff and councillors to the survey report (Life Skills, 2014) published yesterday by our Minister for Education & Skills which shows up the lack of exercise that our second-level pupils take on a daily basis. Cycling to school every day provides a minimal level of aerobic exercise for all of us. Every County Council/Road Authority is bound by national policy (DoTTAS NCPF, 2009) to increase the level of active travel. The creation of a greenway will do just this providing that Mayo CoCo ensures that local feeder infrastructure suitable for cycling is put in place in the environs of schools and colleges. [The report is here: http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/Results-of-the-Department-of-Education-and-Skills-%E2%80%98Lifeskills%E2%80%99-Survey-2012.pdf]
- It is Clear from the Managers report on submissions the former railway line from Claremorris to Collooney needs protecting, in particular as European funding for an extension of the Western Rail Corridor north of Athenry is not going to be forthcoming since the disclosure in November 2013 that the Western Rail Corridor does not form any part of strategic railway corridors as defined by the European TEN-T policy approved by the European parliament and accepted by the Irish Government
- The council need to be aware that the official status of the line north of Claremorris is closed. The line south of Claremorris to Tuam and Athenry is officially classified as Engineering Sidings. There are no plans to re-open Claremorris-Collooney by Irish Rail, or the Department of Transport. This fact seems to have been overlooked by the county planner. The line north of Claremorris is closed!
- The council received overwhelming support for a greenway on the route in order to preserve it until such time as a railway is possible. It is unclear from the Managers report but it would appear the council received at most one submission suggesting a velo-rail as an option to protect the route. The council is clearly suggesting a solution that goes against public opinion, Ignoring 287 submissions asking the council to follow international best practice is an act of crass ignorance on the part of the council. It is simply not acceptable.
- Irish Rail the owners of the route have on public record expressed a view they will support greenways on routes to protect extinguished rail routes. Placing Greenways on old rail routes in order to protect the alignment is considered international best practice and has been used in many parts of the world. It is also highly cost effective with little to no maintenance costs ongoing.
- The notion of protecting the existing railway track by putting a “velo-rail” on part of the route is meaningless,. The existing railway track could not be used for a modern railway system. Preserving the actual railway track (existing sleeper and rails) is totally meaningless. Claiming a velo rail will protect the “railway track” for maybe one or two kilometres will do nothing to protect the entire 70km route from Claremorris – Collooney. Mayo county council should reference the project being undertaken by Meath County council on the closed rail line from Navan to Kingscourt, this line is also classified as closed with no plans to re-open it, and Meath county council are planning a greenway on the route in order to protect it.
- A velo rail will be socially exclusive and only benefit one operator. It will effectively privatise the route. A greenway would be socially inclusive and benefit many more people in the county.
- The proposed clause RL-03 in the re-drafted county plan: should be altered to include at this stage the option for Irish Rail to recommend what the international best practice would be to preserve the route and RL-03 should be reworded:
- RL-03 It is an objective of the Council, in conjunction with Iarnrod Eireann and Department of Transport Tourism and Sport plus relevant tourism interests to investigate the use of the Western Rail Corridor for two options (1) Velo-rail or (2) as a greenway as an interim use for the rail line pending its reopening for passenger and rail freight and for Irish Rail to make a recommendation based on international best practice, cost and feasibility for the entire route as to which option Irish Rail recommends for use of the Western Rail Corridor in this interim period until such time as a railway might be considered a feasible option. The council will also discuss this matter with Sligo County Council as the Claremorris/Collooney route runs through both counties. A cost benefit analysis will be conducted to compare the cost of a greenway for the entire route or velo rail for part of the route and what the business benefits will to various businesses along the route. The social benefits along the entire route will also be considered. The cost benefit analysis will include a survey of businesses on the route. The issue will also be referred to the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport for a final decision and recommendation.
Do not miss out on this opportunity to create sustainable jobs and tourism.