DERRY JOURNAL Editorial: ​Rail desert has to be addressed

​Fifteen years ago the late Jacques Barrot looked at a map of Ireland.
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The European Transport Commissioner pointed to the north west and asked if it was a barren area.

The exchange was recently shared by Donegal TD Pearse Doherty who was part of a delegation that met Barrot in 2008 to highlight how the north west had become a rail desert over the past half century or so. That the French politician thought we lived in an uninhabited wasteland was not unreasonable given the total dearth of major transportation routes in Derry and Donegal. What has changed? Nothing. Look at a map today and a vast swathe of the the west of Ulster and Connacht – from Derry to Sligo, through Cavan and Monaghan, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh – is a rail vacuum. The region must represent around 10 per cent of the land area of the country but you may as well be looking at a lunar sea as far as rail is concerned.

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That this situation persists in a civilised country when government policy in Belfast and Dublin is geared towards reducing carbon emissions and getting more people onto public transport is totally unacceptable. In fairness, soundings from the Eamon Ryan, the southern transport minister, have been positive. Let’s hope that the Arup rail report, once published, suggests the north western rail desert is remedied and that successive incoming governments, north and south, pursues these recommendations in the interests of connectivity, economy and the environment.