New railways linking small towns will be “really, really good for rural Ireland” – even if they’re not financially viable, Newstalk Breakfast presenter Ciara Kelly has said.
A major review of Ireland’s is expected to call for the reopening of disused rail routes when it is published.
Many of Ireland’s railway lines were closed in the 1950s and 60s on the grounds they were “seriously uneconomic”.
Despite this, rail enthusiasts have been campaigning for them to be re-opened in recent years - arguing it is a green way of travelling and that towns with a railway station experience higher levels of economic growth.
Ciara Kelly believes new railway lines could be transformative for many towns in the long-term.
“I’m for it on balance,” she said.
“I know, before anyone talks to me about the finances, I know that this won’t pay for itself.
“I know this is not financially viable but… I live in a town that has had a rail line that was put into it in the 1800s.
“It was a fishing village at the time, the population was a couple of hundred people maximum and now it is a thriving metropolis, dormitory town of Dublin.
“It wouldn’t be what it is without that rail line - we wouldn’t be the same village, we wouldn’t have the same vibrancy, the same population and the same ability to move people without that rail line.
“So… yes, if you put them into certain area, they will not pay for themselves - not in a decade, maybe not even in 50 years - but if you think of it long-term… they will definitely not only pay for themselves but they will frame and shape and change the hinterland around that railway line.
“So, I think this is really, really good for rural Ireland and this is really, really good for the suburbs of regional towns and cities in this country.”
Her co-presenter Shane Coleman was more sceptical and argued that there are better ways to spend public money.
“We’re talking about tiny populations,” he said.
“Rail works when you have population density and you’re moving large numbers of people.
“Rail doesn’t work and you will never get a return on it when you have a small, dispersed population.
“You can get far more bang for your buck and do far more by using buses.”
The Journal.ie reports the review will recommend rebuilding the Derry to Letterkenny line and a new freight line linking Athenry in Galway with Claremorris in Mayo.
It is also expected that Rosslare in Wexford could be linked with Waterford.
Main image: Split of Ciara Kelly and a railway station.