Martina Anderson MEP is a member of the GUE/NGL Group in the European Parliament
NEW MEP Martina Anderson is driving ahead with a plan to secure EU funding for an effective and efficient all-Ireland rail network for passengers and freight.After what she described as a very informative presentation by the ‘Western Arc’ campaign group, the Irish MEP is proposing an amendment to the EU funding round for 2014-2020 to include the Western Arc rail network (West/North West Region), extending from Belfast through Derry, Sligo, Knock, Galway to Shannon/Limerick in the Trans European Network, TEN-T Programme.Martina says:“Politicians in Ireland continuously talk about investment in the rail ‘network’ as if such a network actually exists. Well, it doesn’t. A century ago, Ireland had one of the most comprehensive rail networks in Western Europe. Since then, the car and juggernaut lorries have replaced rail as the preferred means of transporting people and goods.“We need to accept that we do not have a rail network but we need one and that is what this amendment is intended to achieve. What we have is a line connecting Belfast to Dublin, a link to Larne, and what passes for a link between Belfast and Derry, which is so sub-standard the majority of commuters will not use it. Donegal, Sligo, Galway and much west of Shannon are no better served.”What is required, the MEP says, is collaboration between Belfast and Dublin on a strategic plan, driven and co-ordinated at ministerial level to create a proper all-island rail network with the active support of all MEPs, North and South, in lobbying for inclusion of this amendment for consideration in the next round of EU funding for 2014-2020 “The use of an all-island rail passenger/freight network would reduce road traffic congestion and address the infrastructural deficiencies often cited as the main factors for the failure to attract sustainable investment to regions outside the Dublin/Belfast axis. “The Centre for Cross-Border Studies should be tasked to firm-up a cost analysis of such a project in preparation for presentation of a case to Europe.
“We must think imaginatively. The linking of ports, airports and railways should be an essential element of a future transport network. Strategic transport planning is one of the areas listed for co-operation and implementation under the All-Ireland Ministerial Council’s remit. The AIMC could lead the way in developing and implementing such a visionary transportation plan.”