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Unread 03-01-2009, 00:06   #1
Colm Moore
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Join Date: Dec 2006
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Default Claims for western rail link 'speculative'

I think "the project could never be justified on the basis of a simple socio-economic analysis no matter what level of sensitivity tests were undertaken." is rather telling.

Claims for western rail link 'speculative'

A GOVERNMENT-commissioned study has found that claims made for the reopening of the first phase of the Western Rail Corridor in an earlier report "are largely speculative".

Work is continuing on restoring the €106 million Ennis-Athenry line that will connect services between Limerick and Galway cities. The rail line is due to reopen to passenger traffic next June after a gap of 33 years.

In an appraisal of five separate reports that led the Government to sanction the reopening of the first phase of the line, Steer Davies Gleave (SDG) questions many of the assumptions made on the reopening of the line.

In the report, released under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, by the Department of Transport, the SDG report states: "On the face of it, the cost-benefit analysis would suggest that the scheme is not good value for money and should not have gone ahead. "Our understanding is that it has been decided to embark on this project despite the poor economic case due to its expected role in achieving goals related to national and regional development."

The SDG report concludes: "This is highlighted in the McCann report from May 2005, which stated that with projects of this nature demand is very difficult to quantify" and suggests that "infrastructure such as the restoration of the Western Rail Corridor could have a major impact on the future development of the West".

The McCann report was given to the then minister for transport, Martin Cullen, by the chairman of the expert working group on the Western Rail Corridor, Pat McCann. The Government gave the project the go-ahead with the knowledge that the service would lose €2.4 million each year and need a subvention of a similar amount to cover losses.

The project involves the relaying of 36 miles of track and station and platform construction - the last freight trains travelled on the route in 2000.

The project was also given a net present value (NPV) of €137 million, and consultants stated that even if there was a doubling in the anticipated number of passengers, the project would still not be commercially viable.

In its evaluation of the reports that resulted in the Government giving the project the go-ahead, the SDG report found that the assumptions made in relation to travel time saved per trip by train were "assumptions not based on clear methodology" and that different assumptions on growth of the service appeared in two versions of the report giving the project the go-ahead.

However, in a written response to the consultants, Iarnród Éireann's manager of strategic and business planning, Michael Reidy, said the "justification for the Ennis-Athenry line was always going to be on regional development grounds in terms of its contribution to both regional and commuter rail access".

Mr Reidy pointed out that the phased reopening of the Western Rail Corridor was included in Transport 21 and the justification was underpinned by the McCann report.

In a second letter, Mr Reidy said that SDG had failed to grasp the uniqueness of the Ennis-Athenry project and the project could never be justified on the basis of a simple socio-economic analysis no matter what level of sensitivity tests were undertaken.

"The justification for the project is on regional development grounds, and SDG recommendations should reflect this," Mr Reidy said.

"The notion of considering alternative options shows a clear lack of understanding of the nature of the project."
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