The Western Rail Corridor was originally included under the Transport 21 Initiative and was to be developed in Three Phases. Phase 1 involved the reopening of the 36 mile stretch of railway line between Ennis and Athenry and this is part of the TEN-T comprehensive network. This line was opened to the public in March 2010. Exchequer funding of €106.5 million was approved for Phase 1.
The plan for Phase 2 involved the development of the line from Athenry to Tuam. However, this development together with a number of other transport projects was postponed in 2011 due to the economic and fiscal crisis. Phase 3 involved the development of the line from Tuam to Claremorris.
As the Deputy is aware, both the 'Programme for a Partnership Government' and the recently-published 'National Development Plan' commit to an independent review of the costings for a proposal to extend the existing Western Rail Corridor beyond Athenry. My Department is currently at an advanced stage in developing an approach for progressing such a review in line with these commitments, and I expect to be in a position shortly to decide on the approach to be taken. I am cognisant of the need for stakeholder consultation as part of the process and can assure the Deputy that this will be an integral part of the review's arrangements.
Also looking ahead, the European Commission, in reviewing the implementation of the TEN-T core network by end 2023 and in consultation with Member States, will evaluate whether the core network should be modified to take into account developments in transport flows and national investment planning.
In relation to Ireland West Airport, Knock, as one of our smaller airports that provide scheduled passenger air services, the taxpayer has supported Knock Airport for many years with funding for its operations. This support for Knock, and for the other regional airports, will continue under Project Ireland 2040 through my Department’s Regional Airports Programme. This Programme provides financial support towards safety and security projects and activities at these airports and indeed Project Ireland 2040 recognises that, given its scale of operation, Knock Airport plays a more regional role in terms of international access than the other smaller airports given its location in the North-west.