Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said the reintroduction of rail links to Donegal is ‘not impossible’ and could be achieved within 20 years.
Deputy Ryan has outlined his vision for Letterkenny-Derry and Sligo-Donegal links in the near future as part of his party’s focus on increased public transport.
Speaking to Donegal Daily today, Deputy Ryan said his party’s plans for a significant shift in investment towards public transport to lower carbon emissions will include railways in the north west.
“Donegal is not connected at the moment, but I would look at the vision we have. This will take time but it’s not impossible to connect Letterkenny to Derry for a start. The railway extension would start connecting to that Belfast-Derry rail line and to connect from Sligo to Donegal,” Mr Ryan said.
“The distances aren’t that long and for the amount of money we’re currently spending on transport we should be able to and particularly look at the old railway lines that were running, can we recover them or reconnect them with new rail services.”
Deputy Ryan said that balancing budgets against roads improvements could allow rail plans to be delivered upon. “Holding back” part of the budget from projects such as the A5 would be a key approach.
He said: “No-one’s disagreeing that we need to improve road quality, particularly when you’ve got sections that are not safe. But can we do it in a way that is just not all roads?
“If we just do roads to Donegal and don’t do any rail or other public transport improvements, all that traffic is going to hit Letterkenny, as it already is and get stuck in traffic jams and it just doesn’t work.”
Deputy Ryan said he envisaged that the plan could be realised, with political will, within two decades and it would be in line with a global movement towards a low-carbon future.
He said that such investment in public transport would in turn improve local development.
“It’s a big investment. All the economists would say the numbers aren’t there to justify it. But the only way it will work is through transport-led development. You put in the public transport infrastructure first and then the housing and industrial investment and enterprise developments follow.”
Deputy Ryan’s comment came during a special press conference today in the Colab Letterkenny with Donegal Green Party Candidate Michael White.
The conference took place via video call to highlight the role that digital hubs can play in connecting people in rural areas with minimal travel.
Michael White has called for a “Technology Czar” to be appointed for Donegal to drive inward investment in the technology sector.
The new ‘Tech Czar”, according to Mr White, would drive a coordinated campaign to encourage high tech employers in Dublin and Galway to relocate staff to Donegal.
The goal is to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions in the cities while boosting the rural economy.
Mr White said: “For most of the 20th century there was a drift from rural areas to the cities. What we are saying is that with today’s technology we can reverse that drift and re-balance how the country and how Donegal develops in the next 10 years. Why can’t LinkedIn and Google and other big employers have staff in Letterkenny and Buncrana?”.
While a number of Digital Hubs are built or are in planning in Buncrana, Arranmore and Carrigart, and individual efforts are made to attract potential occupants, the Greens believe more is needed to fully realise the potential for Donegal.
They want a year-long campaign targeting large high tech employers, specifically marketing the county’s Digital Hubs as a target location.
“Rents in Dublin have gone through the roof. For young couples in the tech sector who are thinking of starting a family and buying their first home, that’s a lot easier to do in Donegal. They get affordable housing, good infrastructure and a great quality of life. Indigenous technology companies in Donegal will also benefit from a bigger talent pool to access along with a transfer of skills. And local businesses will benefit from new, highly paid workers arriving in the county who have higher than average disposable income.”
Another Donegal-focused future project of the Greens is the development of offshore wind from the Atlantic and Celtic Seas.
Donegal plays a large part in the plans, Deputy Ryan said, as the party wants to tap into wind resources off the north west coast to turn wind energy into electricity that would not only serve Ireland, but would be exported across north west Europe.
Deputy Ryan said that Killybegs is one of the obvious locations to base the industry due to the pier improvements, engineering, logistics and offshore capabilities, while Lough Foyle is another possible area for wind energy harvesting.
A massive investment in offshore wind would see floating turbines placed off the west coast to harvest six times the electricity usage of Ireland so it can be exported to the continent.
Deputy Ryan said this would also be a 20-year project but he was certain that “this is an opportunity that’s going to happen.”
“It’s going to be a huge project and Donegal will have the natural advantage because of its location. But it won’t happen if we don’t get political support behind it and commitment to making it happen,” Ryan said.Tags: