Thursday, 28 March 2019

Ceisteanna (167)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

167. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the western corridor has been reinstated in the TEN-T funding programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14602/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

At present, the Western Rail Corridor has not been re-instated on the Trans-European Transport Network. During negotiations on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Connecting Europe Facility and Repealing Regulations (EU) No 1316/2013 and (EU) No 283/2014, the European Parliament proposed an amendment to the Annex. The Parliament's proposed amendment was to include the alignment of Derry - Sligo - Galway on the North Sea - Mediterranean Core Network Corridor. This amendment was deemed unacceptable by the European Commission on the grounds that alignments of the core network corridors can only include elements of the core TEN-T network, which as presently defined does not include any of Derry, Sligo or Galway. A number of similar proposed amendments by the Parliament concerning other Member States were also rejected on the same grounds.

In late February 2019, my Department received correspondence from European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, which stated that the European Commission is considering advancing the review of the comprehensive TEN-T Network, which is due to take place no later than the end of 2023, as stipulated in the TEN-T Regulation. The Commission's review process will include: an evaluation study, to be launched this month and to conclude in spring 2020; a public stakeholder consultation process, opening this month and concluding in June 2019; and targeted consultation with Member States and a wide range of stakeholders, commencing in the second half of 2019. My Department intends to be fully engaged in all stages of this review process.

In addition to our participation in this process, my Department will be making a formal submission to the European Commission shortly, calling for an early review of the TEN-T Network as outlined in the Programme for Government, taking into account our National Development Plan, our National Planning Framework and the implications of Brexit.

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. A process for an independent financial and economic evaluation of WRC phase 2 has commenced and this will include broad consultation. Having conducted a procurement process for contracts of this nature, Irish Rail anticipate the appointed consultants will commence work at the end of the month. The study will take 5 to 6 months to complete and will include a comprehensive public consultation exercise.