A North West MEP has called for a feasibility study to examine the prospect of restoring rail to Donegal.
Sinn Féin Midlands North West MEP Chris MacManus was speaking after submitting a joint submission with Sinn Féin Cúige West and Islands (the party’s regional structure) to the All Island Rail Review.
Mr MacManus said: ‘Donegal has long been known as the ‘forgotten county’, due to its outlying location within the 26 county state and a real sense of isolation. The lack of quality transportation options to the rest of the state due to poor road conditions and limited public transportation contributed to this. »
“If the North West is to realize its full economic potential, we need to address the glaring lack of a railway between Derry and Donegal. Donegal has been without rail for generations – this is not just a symptom of partition, but demonstrates how much Donegal’s infrastructure has been neglected by the southern government.
Donegal once had an extensive rail network, with terminal stations in places like Killybegs, Ballyshannon, Glenties and Carndonagh. Burtonport was linked to Letterkenny, which in turn had links to Derry and Lifford (and as far as Strabane). Most of the lines had closed by 1960, although parts of East Donegal had services until 1965.
Mr McManus continued: ‘In our rail review submission, we are asking for a feasibility study on a further rail extension from Derry to Letterkenny. This would mean Donegal would once again have access to rail, linking the county to its neighbors in Derry and the rest of the northern rail network.
“The proposed link would give people in the Letterkenny area another option for getting around town quickly.
Letterkenny has been identified as a regional growth center with a projected 40% increase in population by 2040. Therefore, we need investment in infrastructure and services such as rail to ensure the establishment adequate public transport to meet the growing population of Letterkenny and Donegal in the years to come. »
(Above: Ireland’s current passenger rail network. Map: Iarnrod Eireann)
He added: “In the long term, the possibility of linking the Letterkenny-Derry line to a recently reopened Western Rail Corridor with stops at Ballybofey/Stranorlar, Donegal Town, Ballyshannon, Bundoran and up to Sligo, should be considered. This would go a long way to ending Donegal’s lack of infrastructure and isolation from the rest of the island.
“This would help reverse decades of regional inequality in the North West, while also being a huge step forward in terms of developing a truly pan-Irish rail network that serves the whole island.”
He argued that this would “create a collar of rails linking every key population center in Ireland: from Dublin in the north to Belfast; across to Derry; south to Sligo, Galway, Limerick and Cork, then back up to Dublin via Waterford and the port of Rosslare.2
Indeed, he said it would be a game-changer for the island’s economy and connectivity, and a huge boon for Irish tourism.
He concluded: “I hope the review will recognize the need to address the lack of railways in County Donegal and that action will be taken by our government in this regard.”