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Strong Opposition To Tipp Railroad Closures

Thursday, 17 November 2016

A REVIEW into rail services in Ireland has singled out the Ballybrophy to Limerick rail line as exorbitantly expensive to operate - bad news for passengers in Tipperary who may be left stranded if recommendations to close the line go ahead.
The railway line, which passes through Roscrea, Cloughjordan, Nenagh and Birdhill, is costing the state €550 per passenger to run and carries an average of only 73 passengers a day, generating only €750 in fares, according to the review.
The bleak figures were revealed in the review into rail services, drawn up by the National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann, which was brought to cabinet by Minister for Transport Shane Ross on Tuesday.
The report outlined funding requirements for various routes on the network and compared the cost of running services. For example, the subvention for every passenger journey on the Dart system in Dublin is only 90 cent per passenger, but on the Limerick to Ballybrophy line it jumps to a staggering €550 - costs that are simply unfeasible and cannot be maintained, some are arguing.
Passengers have also complained about the length of time it takes to travel the route, which due to old creaking infrastructure can only operate at 25mph in some areas - speeds which make travel times very unappealing when compared with travelling on the road network.
The route was revamped in 2012 with a revised timetable when Tipperary Labour TD, Alan Kelly, was Minister for Transport and he strongly condemned any suggestion to cease its operation this week.
Despite the figures stating that trains on the route carry as few as 73 passengers a day and collects as little as €753 a day in fares, Deputy Kelly said many people depend on the service and cannot be forgotten about.
'I can't accept the recommendations until I see the report, but I don't accept the reports today to be honest with you - they are factually highly inaccurate,' Deputy Kelly said on Tuesday morning..
'Investment has never gone into the Ballybrophy to Limerick line or the Limerick to Waterford line either. Because both of those haven't gotten the investment the speed levels of those trains don't meet the necessary requirements because of the number of level crossings on the line,' he said.
'Because of that lack of investment and an agenda to close the lines for a number of years we are left with the scenario we have now. Huge investment is going into Nenagh - are we really saying to people that Ireland cannot afford to maintain a railway system that will serve people?,' Deputy Kelly argued,' adding 'We were able to maintain these lines during the worst of the recession.'
Deputy Kelly dismissed the figure of €550 subvention per passenger on the Ballybrophy line as 'not comparing apples with apples' and said that transport for rural Ireland cannot be compared to densely populated areas like Dublin.
'If you allow a railway line to deteriorate you're not going to get people to use it. The investment has to go in. If more money was spent on it more people might use it,' he said.
'Minister Ross needs to learn a lesson here, if he is willing to close nine railway stations across two different lines purely because there hasn't been any investment there,' Deputy Kelly said.
'Normally, when Government makes a proposal to shut down rural infrastructure, there is an immediate examination of the total negative impacts on rural communities and that should be the case here too. The idea that only profitable public transport routes should be maintained would lead to the withdrawal of public transport from whole swathes of both urban and rural Ireland,' Deputy Kelly said.
Those sentiments were echoed by Fianna Fail Tipperary Dail Deputy, Jackie Cahill, who said that any attempt to close the rail service 'will be met with fierce opposition by the people of North Tipperary.'
'We all know there are challenges with the train service, but just because something is difficult doesn't mean it shouldn't be done,' Deputy Cahill said.
'We can increase capacity through a variety of measures - change the operating times to reflect working times and increasing the frequency of services.
One of the biggest mistakes this country ever made was ripping up hundreds of miles of railway lines across the country in the 1950s,' he said.
'Entire generations of people across rural Ireland have not had the opportunity to develop a relationship with the train network. This takes time, and effort and support, and the communities living along the Limerick to Ballybrophy should be encouraged, not discouraged, from using the train service,' Deputy Cahill said.
'Minister Ross needs to understand that an Ireland exists beyond the M50, and that communities in rural North Tipperary deserve access to commuter rail services as much as anywhere else.
'Before the Minister attempts to close this rail connection, he needs to ask himself "Has everything been done to increase passenger numbers that can be done, and can changes be made to the frequency to entice passengers out of their cars and onto trains?',' Deputy Cahill asked.
It is anticipated Minister Ross will warn his cabinet colleagues of potential closures across the rail network in a bid to address the financial deficit at Iarnród Éireann.
The Minister will stress that the company needs more than €640-million over the next five years to tackle its financial shortfall.

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