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”.
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Paul Clerkin wrote:Can the track bed be turned into a nice cycle route?
There is another disused railway line in the environs of Waterford pencilled in for such a use whise details escape me at the minute.
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Iarnrod Eireann blames councils for hastening closure of railwayBy Paul Melia
Saturday August 07 2010
A FRESH row broke out yesterday over the closure of a railway line after a report said the decision by Iarnrod Eireann had "serious shortcomings".
The South East Regional Authority (SERA) investigation found fundamental flaws in rail bosses' proposals to scrap the underperforming Rosslare-to-Waterford line.
It claims the service could get back on track through extra stops and a more frequent timetable.
But Iarnrod Eireann has in turn blamed local authorities for hastening the closure of the railway line because of poor planning decisions.
A spokesman claimed that if county councils had insisted that new housing developments be built close to the line, it could have attracted more customers which would have allowed it to remain open.
The new report yesterday said the line could be kept open and passenger numbers increased if more services were introduced, and local authorities and community groups worked to promote the service.
Last month Iarnrod Eireann announced that services would be suspended because of poor passenger numbers.
There is only one train from Rosslare to Waterford in the morning and one back in the evening. Just 25 people use the service each day, and the state rail operator said it could not afford to keep it open.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) will decide next month if the line can be closed. Iarnrod Eireann is paid an annual fee by the Government to provide a service, and the NTA must approve its closure.
"We made our submission to the NTA and we feel any objective assessment demonstrates that the line is unsustainable," said Iarnrod Eireann spokesman Barry Kenny.
"We have made assessments in relation to operating additional services, which showed they would generate greater losses. The local authorities did nothing in recent years to make this line sustainable. You could have had focused development around the line to improve its sustainability, but that didn't happen."
The need for the line was stressed in the report commissioned by SERA, which is made up of Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford City, Waterford County, and Wexford councils.
It said a "viable" rail service on the Rosslare-Waterford-Limerick line, and specifically on the Rosslare-Waterford section, would contribute to balanced regional development. It said the region's population was 460,000, and would increase to almost 600,000 by 2022.
"A decision to close passenger services on a rail line linking population centres would seriously be in conflict with the thrust of national and regional policy," it found. "The key question is therefore whether the line is capable of generating enough passenger traffic to make a material contribution to these policy objectives."
It said that Iarnrod Eireann's justification for closing the line had "serious shortcomings" and it would be "unsafe" for the line to close based on the company's views. "Low frequency services, especially with poor interconnections with other services, cannot be expected to attract large numbers of travellers."
It said freight traffic could be increased, and the line developed as a community rail partnership promoted by councils, community and rail user groups and local business.
- Paul Melia
I have to agree with IE on this; all of the regional authorities sat back whilst tens of thousands of one off houses were built in each of their functional areas. Had the bodies banned one off houses and focussed growth along existing transport corridors and raised development levies to fund removal of level crossings and rolling stock then they could have a go at IE. Why should the tax payer run uneconomical services if the regional and local authorities won't incur an opportunity cost to assist same?
- PVC King