IRISH RAIL has announced that it will “suspend” its Rosslare to Waterford service on July 21st. Local people believe it will never actually resume.
The State-owned subsidiary of CIÃ‰ has blamed a steep fall in passenger numbers and said the line is no longer economically viable.
The service has been operating just once daily – in each direction – with no Sunday service.
A morning train departs from Rosslare Europort at 7am and wends through south Co Wexford with stops at the villages of Bridgetown, Wellington Bridge, Ballycullane and Campile before arriving at Waterford’s Plunkett Station at 8.20am. The return journey leaves Waterford at 5.20pm and terminates at 6.35pm.
Passengers about to board the train at Waterford last Thursday evening had mixed views about the line’s closure.
Richard Miskella (74) said “it’s a real pity but if it’s not paying they can’t run a train” and he’d be “happy enough if it’s replaced with a good bus service”.
Barry Kehoe (44) lives in Co Westmeath but was holidaying in his native Wexford and was taking his children, Amy (4) and OisÃn (18 months), to Wellington Bridge where they were being collected by car. He had heard about the line’s closure and was embarking on the short journey “for nostalgic reasons”.
As the 100-seat train pulled away from the platform, there were only 17 passengers on board.
According to Irish Rail, the service has “experienced very low patronage for many years” with the train carrying on average “approximately 25 passengers”.
The company also pointed out that the sugar beet freight business, “which sustained the viability of the line”, ceased in 2006 following the demise of sugar manufacturing in Ireland.
The line also suffered from a decline in the number of foot passengers arriving on ferries at Rosslare.
The service cost €4 million a year to operate but generated only about €40,000 from ticket sales. The closure will result in some 30 job losses – among them keepers who operated a network of manned crossings – but there will be “no forced redundancies”. Meanwhile, the company plans to launch a replacement bus service on the route to be operated by Bus Ã‰ireann which will terminate at Waterford Institute of Technology – to the advantage of students who had been using the rail service but had then to make their own way to the campus some two miles away.
Irish Rail officials said that new legislation meant that the tracks on the Rosslare-Waterford line “can’t be torn up for at least 10 years” in case there is a change of heart.
The company would also “explore the possibility of establishing a heritage railway on the route with interested parties, which would be of benefit to tourism in the area”.
Officially, the rail service cannot be halted until Irish Rail receives formal approval from the National Transport Authority, a new body established last year by the Minister for Transport with “responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger land transport services”.
A spokeswoman said the authority would make its decision after considering correspondence from interested parties – despite there being “no provision for public consultation under the 2009 Public Transport Act”. The authority is expecting to receive a submission “by July 16th” from the South-East Regional Authority.
This Clonmel-based organisation, which describes itself “as a regional tier of government in Ireland” and “to the forefront in identifying, articulating and addressing the deficiencies, development needs and investment priorities of the region” has hired “a consortium of consultants” including “one from the UK” to prepare its submission. A spokesman said the consultants would be paid €26,000 which represented “good value”.
A request from The Irish Times to discuss the closure of the railway with the Green Party’s Minister of State with special responsibility for sustainable transport was declined. His office said: “Minister CiarÃ¡n Cuffe is not available for interview on the issue and he would like to give the following comment: ‘The proposed suspension of services on the Rosslare-Waterford rail line is an operational matter for CIÃ‰ in conjunction with the National Transport Authority’.”
BACK ON TRACK MIDLETON TO CORK REOPENED LAST YEAR: LAST JULY Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey presided over the reopening of the Midleton to Cork railway line which had been closed 46 years earlier.
The restoration of the service, originally launched in the mid- 19th century, cost €75 million and was funded by the Government’s Transport 21 initiative.
The Minister told the assembled guests that “for over a century, Midleton station served the needs of the people of the area” but that “in time, like so many other local stations, it fell victim to economic change and, perhaps also, to what was then our growing national infatuation with the private car”.
However, “our economy began to grow, and we began to appreciate the need for greater public transport, both to improve the competitiveness of Ireland in attracting investment and to protect and preserve our environment”.