Huge ambitions for “untapped possible” of all-Ireland rail network

Now’s the time to have your say on railways – or the without thereof – across the island of Ireland.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and Republic of Ireland Transport Minister Eamon Ryan have launched a public consultation on their joint All-Island Strategic Rail Review.

In it they have asked the public and stakeholders for feedback on the current system in addition as views on better connecting our towns and cities.

Rail travel is considered one of the least unhealthy ways of getting around in terms of greenhouse gases but large swathes of Ireland, north and south, have no railway connections and rely largely on cars.

Our trains literally went everywhere before it was decided they should be closed down

A meaningful component of the all-island rail review will be recognising the important role railways can play in our quality of life, economic activity and the ecosystem.

Minister Mallon said: “I have huge ambitions for our all-island rail network and I believe it has enormous untapped possible to deliver multiple benefits across our island.

“The All-Island Strategic Rail Review will allow us to consider how we can enhance it for everyone.

“There are real opportunities for communities across the island and meaningful benefits that better connections could bring not just to people but also for our ecosystem and economy.”

Just last week Minister Mallon urged Boris Johnson to hand over some of the £20 billion his bridge from NI to Scotland was projected to cost when the plan was ditched.

Sir Peter Hendy’s Connectivity Review, published on Friday, then highlighted how in the words of Minister Mallon, NI has “suffered decades of underinvestment in public transport, that we have much less rail than in other places across these islands and in turn, an over reliance on the private car”.

She called on the British Government again to help “deliver the projects needed to address this legacy” – including money to sustain the findings of the All Island Strategic Rail Review.

“This is a rare opportunity to shape the future of connectivity across Ireland and I’m looking forward to hearing from communities across our island on what we can do together to deliver lasting change across our country,” additional Minister Mallon.

Ireland’s railways now

Speaking in an Assembly argue about a new report on decarbonising transport, Green Party NI leader Clare Bailey criticised the Executive’s record on sustainable transport investment.

“Transport is our second-highest emitting sector, and consequently is a crucial area to address in our move to net-zero,” she additional.

“Our carbon-based transport system is actively damaging people’s health and wellbeing. According to the Department of Health, there are expected to be 84,000 new situations of disease connected to air pollution in Northern Ireland by 2035.

“People are dying because of our unclean air, but the Executive is nevertheless not responding with the required urgency.”

Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan said during an Infrastructure Committee argue on the same issue it’s vital we prepare our road and rail networks to embrace green and sustainable transport.

“Transport accounts for around 23% emissions in the north,” he additional.

“Not only this but emissions from road traffic are also connected to conditions which include strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections.

“It is clear we need to transform the way we travel but we need the infrastructure in place to make this a reality.

“This method delivering first-class public transport, committing to active travel infrastructure and encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles.”

East Derry SDLP MLA Cara Hunter promoted NI folks and businesses to have their say on the rail review.

The Infrastructure Committee member additional: “This island once had a thriving railway network and since coming into office SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has committed to exploring an expanded railway network, which has the possible to be transformative for communities across our island.

“This is an exciting opportunity for everyone to have their say on the future of rail provision across Ireland.

“The benefits of an overhaul of our current railway network are clear.”

Republic of Ireland Transport Minister Eamon Ryan

Republic of Ireland’s Transport Minister, Eamon Ryan, additional: “I’m delighted to set afloat this public consultation on the future of rail on the island of Ireland.

“We want people’s views on how rail can sustain social and economic development across the island and enhance connectivity between major cities.

“I would encourage all interested parties to participate in shaping the outcome of this important review.”

The consultation closes at 5pm on January 21, 2022.

For more information on how to participate, and to read the policy objectives which frame the review, see https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/consultations

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