O’Dea accused of failing to fight for Mid-West

DEFENCE Minister Willie O’Dea was yesterday accused of failing to fight the Mid-West corner at the cabinet table when the Transport 21 plan was being put together.

The Mayor of Limerick, Diarmuid Scully, said the city will get nothing from the proposed €34 billion spend.

And the president of Limerick Chamber of Commerce launched a withering attack on Minister O’Dea, describing his performance on the plan as “woeful.”

There is mounting anger in the Mid-West at the failure to make a commitment to lay a spur rail line into Shannon from the Limerick/Ennis line and the absence of any proposal to develop Limerick city’s existing rail infrastructure into a commuter network.

The president of Limerick Chamber of Commerce, Robert Graydon said: “Limerick has been forgotten in this plan and this is down to lack of action at cabinet level by our one cabinet representative.

“The lack of action on various issues in cabinet affecting Limerick is woeful. Our health services are now going to be centralised in Galway and our postal service is operated from Cork.”

Mr Graydon said the Transport 21 proposal just to carry out a feasibility study on a spur railway line into Shannon questions the whole government policy for the Mid-West.

“It is the status quo or down grading of services in this region. There is no reason to exclude the Limerick Shannon rail link.”

He also said Limerick city’s existing rail network has been ignored even though with relatively small expenditure it could provide a city wide commuter service.

“We have a railway line going from the north side of the city, passing by the Crescent shopping centre and going on to Raheen. It would not take much imagination to build platforms and provide the necessary rolling stock to set up a commuter service in a short period of time.”

Mayor Scully said: “Once again Galway and Cork have benefited at Limerick’s expense. The plan includes commuter rail services for both these cities, but ignores Limerick.

“Limerick is a significantly larger city than Galway and unlike Galway, Limerick is ringed with rail lines.

“The infrastructure is already in place, it just needs to be put to use.”

He said with regard to Shannon, all that has been offered is ‘the fig leaf’ of a feasibility study.

“In effect this means that the rail link to Shannon will not even be considered until 2015,” Mayor Scully said.

“The question has to be asked if we cannot secure these services when the government is throwing €34bn in to transport - what hope have we of ever getting them.”

He said the Limerick city boundary issue is once again at the heart of the problem.

“The Government sees Limerick as being a smaller city than Galway, because Limerick City Council administers a smaller area than Galway city council. Therefore Limerick is deprived of resources at Galway expense and the entire Mid West region suffers.

“We need commuter rail. We need a Shannon rail link. But first we need a boundary extension.”

Minister O’Dea last night rejected the criticism levelled at him by the mayor of Limerick and the president of the Limerick Chamber of Commerce.

He said: “the feasibility study on the rail link to Shannon is already underway and is due to be completed within a few months. This is something I anticipate a positive result on.”

Minister O’Dea added that in the past five years €284 million had been spent on national roads in Limerick and by 2009 the Limerick southern ring road - which includes a tunnel under the Shannon - will be completed.

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