Saving the Countryside – Summer 2002

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The proposal to route the planned Western Corridor through Athenry must be opposed at all levels!

In January 2001, anxious members of rural Athenry communities such as Castle lambert, Lisheenkyle and Tobberoe became aware of the fact that their area was being considered as the proposed route way for a ‘Western Corridor’ dual carriageway linking Tuam to Galway City. Anxiety turned to frustration as local residents gathered to ascertain how such a proposal could have been put forward by the NRA and Galway County Council without any prior consultation.

Inquiries quickly revealed that the final route for the dual carriageway linking Tuam to Galway was originally to have been selected from one of four previously proposed routes running close to the commercially developed area along the existing Nl7 between Tuam and Galway. Within weeks, farmers, landowners and residents were coming to the realisation that their beautiful undisturbed countryside was under serious threat and they needed to know why.

Action group

Getting to why led to the formation of the Western Corridor Action Group comprising local people willing to help investigate how such a scant proposal partially published in a local newspaper could override an original publicly documented proposal relating to the original four routes along the existing N17. Debate and correspondence with those proposing the route via Athenry yielded little more than spin. The road would give commuters ‘choice’, one has to look at the ‘bigger picture’, putting the road via Athenry would avoid ‘ land and community severance, it will be faster and interestingly enough, the road would help the Tuam to Dublin traffic flow!

Dublin traffic

Thus, a main objective of the development of the future Tuam to Galway Road would be to ease the comparative trickle flowing between Tuam and Dublin. Not the most persuasive of arguments. On the other hand, opposition to the route via Athenry argued that the Tuam to Dublin traffic would continue to use the existing route via North Galway. The Tuam to Galway traffic would still use the existing NI7 to and from work and forego the extra 16 miles of travel per day. It seemed logical that more people would use a route travelling directly from Tuam to Galway rather than one that travelled from Tuam to Galway via Athenry.

Toll Plaza

But the proposal has not gone away. There had to be something more to this. And that something could only, the Action Group believes, be tolls. They believed that traffic counts did not justify routing the Western Corridor via Athenry unless such traffic was to be subjected to passing through a Toll Plaza located near Athenry on the Dublin to Galway N6 motorway enroute to Galway. The possibility of Tuam to Galway traffic being subjected to tolls was raised in correspondence with those proposing the Western Corridor via Athenry but to date has been strenuously denied. Could this be the first road without a turn? It is undeniable that the council previously proposed 4 possible routes for the Western Corridor which were originally put forward by a professional team of paid consultants and advisors.

Threat to farmers

A decision to ignore such advice and suggested routes could severely change local agricultural and community practises in Athenry forever as the historical market town passes through the tiger years severely scathed. The roads will bring about many changes. Loss of cherished land and loss of that special sense of community associated with rural life. They say ‘you can’t stop the roads’, and agreed, it is hard to stop something that has not yet arrived. But if one does not try, arrive it will.

Reconsider

Now in 2002, on the ground it appears to be the general consensus that public monies would be better spent locally and nationally by upgrading the existing carriageways providing bypasses where required whilst also considering the upgrade of existing railway networks. Unlike mainland Europe, our National Development Plan does not seem to incorporate common transport planning practises such as light Railway and Park and Ride schemes. Such limited planning, relying heavily on roads and more roads can only lead us towards problems bigger than those we are trying to solve.

Post election, now must surely be the time to re-evaluate the transport planning of our future based on sensible strategies and sound judgement rather than a blind faith in disguising motorways as progress.

Paul Courtney is Secretary to The Western Corridor Action Group.

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About this record

Written by Paul Courtney

Published here 14 Jul 2023 and originally published Summer 2002

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