Threatened Rail Closures
There will be a meeting in Limerick on Saturday afternoon (10th Dec) for anyone interested in helping to support a nation-wide campaign against any withdrawals of passenger services. The four lines currently under threat may only be the start.
Details will be posted shortly.
Some will of course react by quoting Irish Rail's figures for low passenger numbers and the consequent high cost per head. However, for there are two primary reasons for low usage in the case of the Nenagh line - which I know best: a timetable that does match work or college hours and the numerous deterrents to new customers, caused by inefficiencies in IR's systems.
We presented senior management with a list of the latter over two months ago - but I don't think one of them has yet been fixed.
Despite that, we've increased usage of my local station, Cloughjordan, by a factor of four over recent years - mainly by giving it publicity and providing local contact points for information. This approach could be used elsewhere.
Calling all users of the four rail lines threatened with closure!
The Nenagh Community Rail Partnership (see Note #1 below) has arranged a meeting this Saturday, 10th Dec, in Limerick for anyone interested in helping to set up and help co-ordinate a campaign against the proposed cuts (#2).
If you weren't included in the circulation list for the preliminary notice of this meeting, please accept our apologies for short notice.
The meeting will be in the Shannon Room at the Limerick City Hotel (#3) and will start at 1430h. This timing will allow rail travel from all the affected areas - even Rosslare (#4).
Agenda to be finalized at start of meeting but may include consideration of:
- Agreeing campaign themes and priorities
- Setting up a nationwide on-line petition
- On-line survey of current usage patterns & market needs
- Specific issues affecting each line
- Drawing up a list of low-cost ways of increasing usage
- Getting the interest of national media (as well as local)
- Getting the attention of TDs and councilors
- Use of social media
- Engaging with younger travelers
- Establishing a local action group for each line, where none exists, and/ or a national umbrella body (Irish Rural Rail Alliance?)
There will obviously not be time in the meeting to discuss many of these items in any detail. The focus of the meeting will therefore be on establishing teams to progress as many of them as we decide to run with,
Younger rail users and Irish Rail staff will be especially welcome. (Names can be excluded from the list of attendees!)
We hope to see a couple of representatives (at least!) from every station at risk of losing its train service:
- from Rosslare Europort to Enniscorthy
- from Tipperary to Carrick-on-Suir
- from Gort to Craughwell
- from Roscrea to Castleconnell
Remember: united we stand; divided we fall !
Enquiries about the meeting to the following mobile number.
PRO, Nenagh Community Rail Partnership
086 8377 906
#1: NCRP was formed ten years ago to represent users of all five stations on the Nenagh line. We organize rail excursions, publicize the train service locally and meet regularly with IR management at local and head office level.
#2: Don't be fooled by recent 'official' statements that no lines will close. Such statements are designed to lull the public into a false sense of security. It's perfectly possible to withdraw all passenger services while keeping the line theoretically 'open' for a few years - and only then dismantling it. That's how closures are normally effected. NB: nobody has yet said: "No passenger services will be withdrawn".
#3: Limerick City Hotel is at the city end of Shannon Bridge, the most westerly of the three bridges in the city centre. It's 10 minutes walk from the railway station. Head diagonally left from the station towards Peoples Park. Then bear right, keeping the park on your left, and follow Upper Mallow St, Mallow St and Lower Mallow St to the hotel.
#4: Visitors from the Rosslare line can arrive at Limerick for 1414h. Unfortunately, the last train back to Rosslare leaves at 1445, which doesn't leave much time for a meeting! We'll welcome offers of a free bed in or near Limerick for anyone coming such a distance, so that they can travel back the next day.
No disrespect but prehaps you should emphasis that coming for a day out on Saturday is not the solution to make a better effort to use the services......
No point crying wolf over Nenagh line when IE make a major effort in recent years but not a single local bothered using it. Alan Kelly wanted the fancy direct service to Dublin when the priority should be Nenagh to Limerick service.
The Alan Kelly express is being used now as evidence that extra services don't work which is completely out of order since it was a fairly pointless service. As you said the real issue is the lack of limerick-facing commuter service.
About 15 years ago the Sligo line was really not in the best of shape - there were only about 4 or 5 trains a day and the timetabling was ludicrous - they first train past Longford to Dublin didn't get in until 10am which was useless to a lot of people with hospital appointments or other business in Dublin.
It being boom-time, they invested and increased the service to 2 hourly and the response was huge. Now, you can get on a 7 car ICR in the middle of the afternoon and it will be packed. The Sligo line caries nearly the same numbers as Belfast now despite the terminal station having about one 15th of the population. I think the 1705 was the single busiest evening intercity service on the network in the last census.
So basically, investment can work - it doesn't mean that the line is profitable as there is a lot of Free Travel on it but it is providing a socially useful service to a lot of people. The same reasoning may not apply to the other lines but the present approach seems to be to let lines bleed to death with slow inconvenient service on uncomfortable trains. What seems to be utter madness in a lot of cases is that CIE is competing with itself by running loss-making expressway bus services in competition with its own train services.
James the cost is inexcusable......could of gone to maintenance of the network.
It's a tricky balance as increasing services on the branch could more less double subsidy costs to 1,000 as I'm sure they are doing split shift at the minute hence no service in middle of day. This was exact reason third daily Limerick J to Waterford was stopped. When it was four dropping the froth didn't really deliver any major savings but now it's down to two it does.
I think one thing that almost everyone agrees on is that there is certainly no point in carrying on as is. The fixed costs of keeping a railway open make it completely pointless for two daily services. So it is either a question of try to provide a useful level of service or shut them down entirely. Maybe the service increase experiment would be worth trying on one line perhaps using funds supplied from mothballing the others.
It's not about making a profit - it is about providing a service that a few hundred to a couple of thousand people use every day. If that isn't going to happen then it's a waste of time for everyone.
A better service is certainly the key - but that would cost money, even without such long-term costs as new track.
Better info - and accurate info - would cost almost nothing and would deliver immediate results. When I get time, I'll post up the list of issues we gave to IR in September.
The demand is there - but many enquirers give up when they cannot find the info they need. Others are put off by incomplete or misleading info.
Much of this info is the kind of thing that few readers of this post need telling. However, regular rail users tend to forget that train services are up there with The Third Secret of Fatima for many members of the public. IR mgmt have the same blind spot.
As for the claim that "not a single local" used the "Alan Kelly express".....
1. It's nonsense.
2. It wasn't an express. It was FAR slower than the current service, 20' slower than a fairly slow service. The up train stopped - excruciatingly - at almost every suburban station. Moreover, the down trains ran very late, EVERY night - 20' late was good, 30' late was common. New users quickly went back to their cars. And existing passengers drifted away too, since their return train was also affected.
3. That was one of the main reasons that usage was so low. The other was minimal promotion before launch, which led to very low loadings, which in turn generated a mass of negative publicity, which undermined the trickle of half-hearted advertising that followed later. And all that ensured the failure of the service.
4. The NCRP foresaw that outcome and begged IR to postpone, in an email to Dick Fearn (then MD) two weeks before the launch. Our msg was read and noted - but ignored. We didn't even get a substantive response, a marked contrast to every previous communication to Dick - whom we had met several times.
5. Had we rumbled their game? If IR planned for this new service to fail, they could hardly have done a better job on it! Why would they do that? To teach an "uppity young minister" a lesson?????
6. Having planted that thought, I should add that the above hypothesis doesn't depend on whether AK was behind the new train. I have no idea - but he never consulted the NCRP about it, which would be strange if it WAS his baby. (To be fair, neither did IR!) Moreover, if he was indeed behind it, it's remarkable that I recall not a murmur of crowing about it in the local media. And we all know the tendency of TDs to claim credit - even when none is due.
7. The NCRP does not support the assertion that the demand is for travel to Limerick. Quite the reverse. From Nenagh eastwards, by far the main demand is for travel to Dublin.
8. Finally, the NCRP doesn't support the attitude that is the duty of the public to "support" any old train service, however poor the timetable: see #2 above. It is the duty of Irish Rail to run the national rail network properly, not to run some of it properly and neglect the rest.
The NCRP will continue to press for services that meet real needs, especially for commuting to work or college. That early express should have been ditched at the planning stage and replaced with a slightly later train from Nenagh to Bally, to connect with a semi-fast to reach Dublin for 08:30. In combination with a workable evening timetable and some eye-catching introductory offers, that would have attracted far more passengers.
No line should close to passenger services until someone has made a serious effort to run it properly. I'd like to see IR funded to do the job - AND monitored by the NTA to make sure they make a GENUINE effort. However, if they don't want the job, maybe the Ffestioniog Railway Co could take it on?
IMHO, all that nonsense in the Dublin-based media about an "Alan Kelly express" is an attempt to create a political story where none exists. They are far too busy whipping up that story to spare time looking into the REASONS for low usage of some rail services, simply swallowing the official line whole that the public are at fault for failing to use said services.
Moreover, the media bias is simply dreadful, whether it's conscious or not. For example, we heard Barry Cummins on Prime Time interviewing passengers at Ballybrophy at 3pm, apparently unaware that none of them was planning to wait four hours for the next train to Nenagh. They had no connection with the service he claimed to be reporting on! He also filmed a stream of younger people alighting - but chose to interview nobody under 70. Then we hear Sean O'Rourke on the radio next day telling the nation that everybody using the Nenagh line seems to be on free travel. (I'd say 30% max!) And the Irish Times printed a photo of an empty station (the normal state!) in 'rush hour' (where the term doesn't apply) on a day when they reported that the trains were replaced by buses (so the station was guaranteed to be empty) !! Was I the only reader to suspect a planted story?
The views above are personal except where ascribed to the NCRP.
The first thing that is needed for all the lines is a clear statement on their future.
Either they should close or there should be a 10+ year commitment to them.
Without that nobody will commit to using them for commuting purposes and nobody will want to invest in the lines because the money could well just be wasted.
What's needed then? Loads
Aside from safety, initial investment needs to focus on reducing operational costs. e.g. How much money can be saved by removing level crossings? Get them down and the case against closing diminishes.
Improved timetabling. Not really getting faster, but getting people to arrive at the time they want. Faster would also be better, but it's primarily an issue for two of the lines (Nenagh-Limerick and Wexford-Dublin).
A few specific to the Nenagh line.
There needs to be a bus service from Castleconnell to Limerick via UL that meets the morning arrival in Castleconnell and drops to the evening departure. It may take a couple of people off the train, but it makes commuting to UL on that line more viable.
Is there any practicality in tying up with a P&R solution on either the M7 or N24?
Limerick Council needs to start looking at where commercial investment is directed and seek to get central office buildings rather than suburban office parks. This isn't just to keep the trainline open either. It also benefits central retail businesses and a broader public transport strategy. Now that there is no longer a county council looking to cannibalise business, there may be some hope on this.
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