CONCERN is growing in Askeaton that the railway line, running from Limerick to Foynes, is being de-commissioned by stealth.
Residents living close to the railway crossing in Askeaton raised the alert earlier this week when they were told the railway gates were being removed and replaced by a fence.
And in a bid to stop such a development, a meeting on the issue has been organised for this Wednesday.
What is also of concern is that the crossing at Childers Road in the city has recently been covered by tarmac
Meanwhile, Askeaton councillor Kevin Sheahan has warned Iarnrod Eireann against any “pre-emptive” moves to close the rail line.
And he has raised the issue as a matter of urgency with Limerick County Council.
The council’s conservation officer Tom Cassidy is now investigating the matter and attempted to contact Iarnrod Eireann’s divisional engineering section yesterday in an effort to clarify the matter, but without success.
However, Mr Cassidy told the Limerick Leader he was of the view that the level crossing at Askeaton was part of the curtilege of the station house and that any work at the crossing would therefore require planning permission.
The Limerick Leader has also attempted to question Iarnrod Eireann and spoke briefly to one engineer but he said he was not aware of the Askeaton situation.
Cllr Sheahan said people in the locality do not want to see the level-crossing gates removed and replaced with fencing. “They are very angry about it,” he said, adding that the railway was part of the area for many generations.
But, he continued, he was particularly perturbed that the removal of the gates – and a possible removal of the signals – might usher in a closure of the line. “I believe this is the beginning of a total decommissioning of the line,” he said, pointing out that despite lobbying by public representatives and others, Iarnrod Eireann had effectively abandoned the line. And he criticised them for failing even to maintain weed-spraying on the line over the past number of years.
The railway line, he said, was a vital piece of infrastructure in the West Limerick area and had been identified as such in various transport, regional, county and spatial plans. It was of particular importance to Foynes port, he argued, and could also play an important role in developing tourism along the route of the line from Limerick to Adare, Askeaton and Foynes.
Any attempt to decommission the Limerick-Foynes rail line woule be in conflict with all stated public policy, Cllr Sheahan argued.
In recent discussions with Transport Minister Leo Varadker, the Shannon Foynes Port company chief executive Pat Keating once more raised the issue of the railway line with him and it is understood the Minister is disposed to the revitalisation of the rail link.
The maintaining of the line has also been identified as part of the company’s master plan which will run to 2041.