Monday 14 October 2019

Plan would sever south Wexford from rail network

Minister Paul Kehoe.
Minister Paul Kehoe.
Minister Paul Kehoe.
Brendan Howlin TD.
Cllr Malcolm Byrne.
James Browne TD.
Minister Paul Kehoe.
Cllr Lisa McDonald.
Cllr Jim Moore.
Karl Fitzpatrick.

By David tucker

WEXFORD, Enniscorthy and Rosslare Europort could be severed from the rail network under a controversial review put forward by the National Transport Authority.

The review, established to look at possible solutions to the rail company's sustainability, says Iarnród Éireann needs more than €640 million in extra finance over the next five years to tackle solvency issues and as compensation for past under-funding.

One of the suggestions is to curtail rail services south of Gorey, leaving the south of the county isolated from the rail network.

Already there are calls for top-level talks between Wexford's public representatives, the Minister for Transport and Iarnród Éireann to counter the proposal before it gains any traction.

Wexford Chamber said the existing rail service from Rosslare to Dublin was an absolute necessity for the county.

'This rail line is one of the county's most important infrastructural assets, as it enables both business commuters and tourists to conveniently travel between Dublin and Wexford on a daily basis. I am calling upon our local government representatives to secure the investment that will be required to protect this valuable link to the capital,'chamber president Karl Fitzpatrick told this newspaper.

'Furthermore, Wexford Chamber believes that a direct route from Wexford town to Dublin would significantly increase the number of passengers using this service, establishing a profitable route for Irish Rail,' he said.

National and local political figures in the county described any plan to cut the service as wholly unacceptable, and while there have been previous threats to axe the lightly-used service between Wexford town and Rosslare Europort, the town has not been included on a potential hit-list for some time.

'This is almost a hardy annual, they seem to cycle out when they feel that resistance to it is least,' said former minister Brendan Howlin.

'It is wholly unacceptable. A lot of money has been invested on the line in Wexford and instead of seeking to cut lines, in the whole new scenario of climate change, they should be seeking to expand services.. this suggestion will be greatly resisted,' he said.

Cllr Malcolm Byrne said Iarnrod Eireann has lost significant levels of funding in recent years and 'we need to invest in public transport'.

'To cut off Rosslare Europort and most of County Wexford from the rail network would be hugely detrimental to the county.' said Cllr Byrne.

Cllr Lisa McDonald called for a pan-political response and high-level meetings with decision-makers.

'It's very worrying and I am genuinely concerned about it. I will be calling for a meeting between the public representatives and Irish Rail and the Minister for Transport,' she said.

'The railway is a lifeline and is an important structural part of Rosslare Port, which, despite being in profit, has received no investment for many years from Irish Rail.. it's disgraceful that they should get away with.

'If you take the tourism and amenity perspective into it, what is proposed makes no sense at all,' she said.

Cllr Jim Moore said that cutting the service would be short sighted, given the nature of the relationship between Dublin and South Wexford.

'It transports not only tourists, but a lot of people who rely on the service to get to and from work in Dublin,' said Cllr Moore.

'It has a long history of its full benefits never being exploted, with bad time-tabling, poor promotional work and not enough investment,' he said.

Deputy James Browne said the report highlights that officials have mooted the possibility of closing the Wexford rail line south of Gorey as a cost saving measure.

'This cannot be allowed to come to pass,' said Deputy Browne.

Minister Paul Kehoe said: 'We are totally dependent on rail services and trying to encourage people to use rail services, not to see them cut.'

A draft report, drawn up by the National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann following its review between March and June, provides the government with options for dealing with funding problems at the State-owned rail operator.

The report says that if the government provides no additional money, the funding gap would have to be eliminated by the closure of whole swathes of the existing rail network.

It says that in such a scenario the majority of the rail network would be shut down, leaving only Dart, commuter services in Dublin and Cork and inter-city services from Dublin to Cork, Belfast and Limerick operating. There would be no services to the west or south east.

Wexford People