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28 May 2022

MEP calls for feasibilty study into prospects of restoring rail link to Donegal

MEP calls for feasibilty study into prospects of restoring rail link to Donegal

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 (regional party structure) to the All Island Rail Review.

Mr MacManus said: “Donegal has long been known as the ‘forgotten county’, due to its peripheral location within the 26 county State and a real sense of isolation. The lack of quality transport options to the rest of the state due to poor roads and limited public transport has contributed to this.” 

“In order for the North West to fully capitalise on its economic potential, we need to address the striking absence of rail between Derry and Donegal. Donegal has been starved of rail for generations - this is not only a symptom of partition but demonstrates the extent to which Donegal’s infrastructure has been neglected by the southern government.”

Donegal once had an extensive railway network, with terminal stations in places like Killybegs, Ballyshannon, Glenties, and Carndonagh. Burtonport was linked to Letterkenny, which in turn had connections to both Derry and Lifford (and on into Strabane). The bulk of the lines had closed by 1960, although part of east Donegal had services until 1965.

Mr. McManus continued: “In our submission to the rail review we are calling for a feasibility study into a new rail extension from Derry to Letterkenny. This would mean Donegal would once again have access to rail, connecting the county to their Derry neighbours and the rest of the northern rail network.”

 “The proposed link would give people from the Letterkenny area another option to commute quickly in and out of the City. 

Letterkenny has been identified as a regional growth centre with a projected 40% increase in population by 2040. Therefore we need investment in infrastructure and services such as rail to ensure that there is adequate public transport in place to cater for Letterkenny and Donegal’s growing population in the coming years.”

(Above: The current passenger rail network in Ireland. Map: Iarnrod Eireann)

He added: “In the long term the possibility of connecting the Letterkenny-Derry line to a newly reopened Western Rail Corridor with stops at Ballybofey/Stranorlar, Donegal Town, Ballyshannon, Bundoran and on to Sligo, should be examined. This would go a long way to ending Donegal's poor provision of infrastructure and isolation from the rest of the island.” 

“It would help reverse decades of regional inequalities across the North West, while being a huge leap forward in terms of developing a genuine all-Ireland rail network that serves the whole island.”

He maintained that this would “create a necklace of rail linking every key population centre in Ireland: from Dublin north to Belfast; across to Derry; south to Sligo, Galway, Limerick and Cork and then back up to Dublin via Waterford and Rosslare Port.2

Indeed, he stated that this would be “a game changer for the island’s economy and connectivity, and a huge asset for Irish tourism.”

He concluded: “I am hopeful that the review will acknowledge the need to address the lack of rail in County Donegal and that action will be taken from our Government in this regard.”

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