I thank the Deputy for her question and I know this is an issue she has raised with me before in relation to the old Navan to Kingscourt line.
As I have previously stated, the operation of the operation of the rail network, including former lines on the network, is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance.
As the Deputy will also recall, the priority funding objective in relation to mainline rail is to maintain and renew the existing operational network. That objective is supported by the significantly enhanced funding now available to support that network as evidenced by the 23% increase in Exchequer funding provided in 2019.
Across counties Dublin, Louth, Kildare and Meath an additional objective is to start work on the DART Expansion Programme which will electrify the lines as far as Drogheda, Dunboyne, Maynooth and Hazelhatch and allow for expanded services across the wider region.
As part of the statutory review of the National Transport Authority’s Transport Strategy further analysis will be undertaken in relation to the existing M3 Parkway line to consider whether that line might be further extended to serve Navan.
So that is the broader context to the rail network in the region.
Specifically in relation to the disused line to Kingscourt, I am aware that the local authorities in the region are exploring options to develop a greenway and those options include the potential of using the existing disused rail alignment.
The most important issue to consider in terms of long term potential in the area of future rail infrastructure is not preserving old track bed, with all its potential unsuitability for future use; rather the important issue is about preserving the alignment of the route from intrusion by property.
So, in that respect, the exploratory discussions that I understand are underway between the local authorities and Iarnród Éireann adhere to that perspective and I do not believe that any such removal of track bed is inherently negative.
The long term potential of rail infrastructure and services in that area will ultimately be driven by careful analysis of the underlying transport demand in the area.