The Foynes to Limerick rail line has been closed since 2001
A PROPOSED redevelopment of a 42 kilometre rail line between Limerick city and the Port of Foynes has received a boost.
Irish Rail is seeking expressions of interest for contractors to rebuild the link which has been out of action since 2001.
It's hoped the tender contract will be awarded later this year, with an 18 month construction period then expected on the line which also covers the Mungret area.
The Limerick-Foynes line was opened in April 1858 by the Great Southern and Western Railway. Passenger traffic ended in 1963, with freight trains no longer using the line after the year 2000.
This saw the branch line disconnected from the broader Irish Rail network.
However, there have been widespread calls for its re-opening given much of the track remains in place.
The Shannon Foynes Port Company has said the link would represent a huge boost to plans to make the Shannon Estuary a global floating offshore wind energy and Atlantic transhipment hub.
It's anticipated the re-opening of the line - a project which enjoys the support of Transport Minister Eamon Ryan - would cost in the region of €45m.
Local Green Party TD Brian Leddin has welcomed the move, saying it's something he has campaigned for since he was elected to the Dail.
"We have a better urban rail network than Cork, Galway or Waterford but we need to have a strategy to get the maximum benefit from bringing this infrastructure back into use. That means we need to focus residential and commercial development in line with this rail potential. This will put Limerick in a place to be the primary growth location in the country for the next decade and beyond. “These are a lot more than just rail projects. They are the critical elements of our vision to grow Limerick and the Mid-West region in a quick and sustainable way so that we compete with the Dublin region and with European city-regions. New development must be focused around this sustainable infrastructure," he said.
Really thrilled to see this get going. It's something I've been working on for a long time, as have many before me. It's the start of a major expansion of rail services and infrastructure in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary in the coming years. https://t.co/2bEc1FPT3T— Brian Leddin (@BrianLeddin) August 1, 2022
Councillor Emmett O'Brien, who represents Foynes on the local authority, said: "There is a move nationally away from car to public transport, and significantly so since it was announced the Ryder Cup is going to be in Adare in 2027. It's obvious people coming to Shannon we have a good rail network. It'll be a slow process, but really and truly it's the way to go."
In a tender document, Irish Rail has detailed what would be involved.
The proposed construction contract, the company says, will include earthworks, the installation of sleepers and rail - supplied by Irish Rail - and also the maintenance and renewal of bridges, culverts, fencing and the road infrastructure at public road level crossings.
A contractor will be asked to clear vegetation, and the removal of existing track, a new ballast-bed will be needed, while bridges along the route will need to be made safe.
There are 13 level crossings along the route which will need to be renewed, as will boundary fencing and drainage, plus the installation of service routes for future line signalling, telecoms infrastructure and level-crossing automation.
The potential re-opening of this line will also come as a boost to a community on the city's southside.
That's because it passes through Rathbane, and the out-of-use level crossing there has become a hotbed for illegal dumping.
Councillor Sarah Kiely - who has campaigned for a clean-up of the site in the area she represents - has welcomed the publication of the tender.
She said: "The railway line has been the bane of the lives of residents for years. I have been given commitment after commitment with no action of note. Some work was completed recently at my request however it was not enough. The daily lives of people in Rathbane and Janesboro and surrounding areas will benefit from the refurbishment of the lines, the contractor will have one hell of a clearance job to do in parts , hopefully it will start soon."
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