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.