NTA dismissive of light rail proposal

The public consultation period on the Material Amendments to the County Development Plan that is to run from 2021 to 2027 closed on January 20 - the report below is based on one of the submissions.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) in its submission on the Westmeath County Development Plan, throws cold water over the suggestion that a light rail system be established on the rail route between Mullingar and Athlone.

The authority says firstly, the objective is not feasible as the line is in use as the Old Rail Trail Greenway, part of the Dublin to Galway route, and secondly that light rail is not appropriate for a rural area.

“Light rail is an urban form of mass transit, most appropriate in locations with a high density of population, employment, retail and other services,” it states, before recommending removal of this objective on the basis that it conflicts with the current use of the line and is not consistent with the principles of sustainable transport planning.

The NTA also notes the reference to Killucan station, but says it is not clear from the text whether it is the intention to pursue the reopening of the station during the period of the Development Plan.

“Any decision to do so would be based on a number of factors, most importantly the forecast number of passengers and the balance between that and the impact of the additional stop on journey times.

“The NTA recommends that these factors are referenced in any objective related to Killucan rail station.”

The association also goes on to recommend that “a clear policy objective” be inserted into the development plan which states that residential development will be undertaken on a phased sequential basis in a manner which seeks to develop sites closest to town centres; sites within the existing urban footprint; and sites contiguous to the existing urban area as a priority.

Department of Transport

Both Killucan station and the suggestion of a light rail system are also mentioned in a submission by the Department of Transport, but not in any positive sense:

“While the operation, maintenance and renewal of the rail network and stations on the network including the former station referred to, is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance, the department is not aware of any decision in relation to the reopening of the station at Killucan. Nor is the department aware of any plan to re-open rail on the old Mullingar to Athlone Rail line at present,” the submission states.