Limerick could see rail connection to Shannon Airport in next 25 years

Shannon Airport.

LIMERICK City may soon be connected by rail to Shannon Airport under plans unveiled in the New Age of Rail report.

The report was published after the first All-Island Strategic Rail Review took stock of Ireland’s rail networks and recommended adding more routes to Ireland’s existing rail lines, electrification of trains, and improved speeds.

Among the plans was a proposal to connect Shannon Airport with Limerick by rail, as well as connecting Dublin and Belfast airports with the national rail network.

The plan was published jointly by the Irish Department of Transport and Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure, and includes plans to connect Northern Ireland with the South.

Also among the report’s recommendations was that rail lines be upgraded to allow for faster trains with speeds of up to 200 km/h to make rail travel faster and more attractive than using a car.

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If the plans are introduced, it could see 700,000 people living within five kilometres of a train station, and 90 per cent of aviation passengers travelling to Ireland’s airports by rail.

Implementing the review’s recommendations in full would set the Government back over €36billion in the next 25 years.

If spread evenly over the next 25 years, the cost is estimated to be the equivalent to the amount invested in the motorway network during the late 2000s.

Currently, Ireland has 2,300 kilometers of rail lines, which could be increased to 2,950 kilometers if all the review’s recommendations are implemented.

The key recommendation in the plan is to decarbonise the rail network in an attempt to help with Ireland’s emissions targets that have been set by the European Union (EU).

The review also recommended upgrading both the inter-city and cross-country rail lines and to increase the frequency of train times between the main cites, with trains running every half an hour on the lines with most demand.

Reinstating the Western Rail Corridor between Claremorris and Athenry was also among the proposals, with Donegal earmarked to get a rail service for the first time in decades.

Long distance and fast services could also be separated, leading to shorter journey times at peak hours and on city approaches.

Three time periods are planned for in the review – short-term, which would see plans implemented by 2030, medium-term which would hope to see plans in place by 2030 and 2040, and long-term projects which would be expected to be completed by 2050.

It is not clear which of these timeframes the connection between Shannon Airport and Limerick City would fall into.

Freight rail services could also see an upgrade, with a proposal for rail links with Ireland’s busiest ports to be strengthened, and reducing track access costs for freight companies.

The next steps will see the recommendations being reviewed by transport ministers North and South of the border, with more work needed to assess the feasibility of each of the recommendations before decisions can be made on which projects get delivered.