President’s Blog – July 8, 2019 – Leading Out in European Transport Policy

Atlantic Economic Corridor Region Map

Hello Members –While last week’s Blog was driven by the recent good weather, this week we return to more technical themes, those being Transport, Inter-connectivity and European Policy.  Sligo Chamber is continually advocating on behalf of its member firms at local, regional, national and European level.  Sligo Chamber is one of the Chambers which led the initiative in relation to the Atlantic Economic Corridor concept.  This was in recognition that Sligo would develop faster economically as part of a networked region rather than on its own.  The Atlantic Economic Corridor stretches from Donegal through Sligo to Galway and on to Kerry.  The concept of the Atlantic Economic Corridor or AEC is to contribute to effective regional development by creating scale linearly through the West of Ireland to attract Irish and overseas investment, grow new jobs and support communities.

To enable the AEC concept, effective transport and communication links are essential along the corridor.  These links would also promote the further development of the tourism initiative of the Wild Atlantic Way.  In relation to transport, the European Union is responsible for the development of Trans-European Networks known as TEN.  In the Transport (T) sector, Europe’s TEN-T or Transport policy is key to the free circulation of goods, services and citizens throughout the European Union.  The EU is currently out to Public Consultation on new Union guidelines for the development of the Trans-European Transport Network or TEN-T.

Sligo Chamber is leading out on behalf of other Chambers in the West in the preparation of a comprehensive submission in response to the consultation process.  The Chamber objective is the establishment, as EU Policy, of a TEN-T corridor along the Atlantic Economic Corridor route extending from Donegal through Sligo to Kerry and our submission will be based on the following priorities:

  • Road/Rail/ Freight connectivity along the Corridor
  • Accessibility for Tourism across the Atlantic Way and specifically to the NW Region
  • Improved Access to Ireland West Airport at Knock
  • Use of the Corridor for interconnectivity of Energy and Telecommunications
  • Connection from the Corridor for freight to the Ports of Foynes, Ringaskiddy, Killybegs and Sligo
  • Facilitating the promotion of Sligo with our new Designation of Growth Centre Status by providing connectivity south to Galway and beyond, and North to Letterkenny

These priorities are based around the Sligo Chamber Vision, as regularly referred to in the Blog, of a Sligo with a core population of 80,000 by the Year 2040 and being the central hub for a region with a population of 400,000, a region that is fully sustainable economically and socially and driving regional and rural growth. Thanks are due to Past-Presidents Trevor McDaid and David Kiely, Dr. Brian McCann of IT, Sligo, Mary Harty and CEO Aidan Doyle for playing a leading role in the preparation of the submission which is to be lodged with the EU by July 15.

To support the vision for Sligo as the pivotal hub for the North West, leading out on European Policy for interconnectivity by means of suitable infrastructure is a fundamental component.  As such, linkages from Sligo radially southwards to Galway and to Dublin; westwards cross-border to Enniskillen and Belfast; and northwards to Letterkenny and Derry are crucial to the National Planning Framework 2040 in the context of a strong and vibrant North-West Economic Zone.  And while of course Sligo Chamber welcomes the ongoing upgrade of the N4 from Collooney to Castlebaldwin improving connectivity by road to Dublin, we must also remember the importance of the linkage by rail from Sligo to Dublin.

In a week where Irish Rail Head of Communications. Barry Kenny featured on Newstalk, answering listeners’ questions on the rail network, we are pleased to announce that Irish Rail has joined Sligo Chamber as a new member.  Many of our member firms use the rail network as an alternative means of transport to Dublin.  The early morning services leaving Sligo at 5.40 am and 6.40 am, arriving in our capital city before 9 am and 10 am, have made travel by rail for business meetings a real viable option.  Last week, I had business meetings in Dublin city centre on three mornings, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.  With city-centre hotel prices quoted at €440 for the Tuesday night, (excluding breakfast), I was left with no option other than to travel to and from Dublin each day.  Travelling by car on the Tuesday, I took the rail option on the Wednesday.  What a positive experience.  Choosing the 5.40 am early train, I was able to work for three hours in comfort, arriving refreshed in the city centre well before 9.00 am. The number of options for the return train to Sligo allowed me plan my day without time pressure and again afforded me the opportunity to catch up on notes following the day’s meetings.  So yes, while we at Sligo Chamber continue to advocate at European and National level for roads infrastructure improvements and rightly so, let us not forget the important role the Irish Rail network provides for our members conducting business in Dublin.

Until next time.

Life is for Living – #Life is Sligo.

Conor McCarthy

President Sligo Chamber