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Western Rail Corridor

  • 29-05-2003 12:07pm
    Closed Accounts Posts: 154 ✭✭

    West-On-Track is a community-based campaign in the towns, villages and cities of the West of Ireland aimed at re-opening the Western Rail Corridor, a passenger and freight railway line which runs from Sligo to Limerick, and is one of the single most valuable pieces of infrastructure in the whole island of Ireland.

    The Western Rail Corridor (WRC) belongs, in the first instance, to the people of the west and its re-opening would herald the beginning of a new era in transport and development in the whole western region.

    Register your support by sending an email to the Minister of Transport by putting your name on the form at the bottom of:



  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭ishmael whale


    "Hundreds at rallies on Sligo-Limerick railway

    February 13, 2004

    (18:45) Hundreds of people took part in a series of rallies in the West today to demand the reopening of the disused Sligo-Limerick railway line.
    The Minister for Transport, Seamus Brennan, visited five towns on the route of the line today.
    In Sligo this morning, he said he would be appointing a new working group to look at the cost of reopening the line.
    A new report drawn up by a lobby group called 'West on Track' claims the line could be economically viable, and could help to re-vitalise the entire region.
    The report says that the group's research indicates that 2,000 passengers a day would use the service."

    Details of the Minister's visit are here are at

    Maybe I’m missing something, but this suggests that the Minister and his entourage can travel from Sligo to Tuam, presumably by road, in one and a half hours. From what I can tell from the proposed timetables on the WRC website at, the train will take much the same. Leaving aside the question of whether there's enough of a catchment area, how does the suggested journey time make the rail option attractive? Have we another white elephant in the making?

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,306 ✭✭✭✭Victor
    Western Rail Corridor to cost €249.72m
    Friday, 13th February, 2004

    The total cost of reopening the disused rail corridor from Sligo to Limerick would be €249.72 million according to a new report by the West on Track lobby group.

    They said the Western Rail Corridor including stations, signalling, level-crossings, track and rolling stock will cost the equivalent of 2.5 miles of the Metro, five miles of the Luas, half of the proposed Red Cow Roundabout works or the equivalent of the Drogheda by-pass.

    A spokesman for the group said reopening the 145 mile disused line would "bring life back into nearly 20 communities throughout the west of Ireland and lead to growth and development on an unprecedented scale on a line all the way from Sligo to Limerick".

    He also said "it would bring the west of Ireland into its own as a region where people can live and where civil servants will be happy to be decentralised to."

    However, the Minister for Transport, Mr Seamus Brennan, who was on an official visit to five stations on the rail corridor, said he might only open sections of the line.

    "Clearly there is huge popular support for the idea of doing something. Perhaps sections of the line might be viable and I'll certainly have a look at those early on," Mr Brennan said.

    Mr Brennan will visit stations in counties Sligo, Mayo and Galway. He said he would be appointing a new action group to look at the viability of reopening the line.

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,306 ✭✭✭✭Victor
    Brennan angers TDs over refusal to fund rail link
    From:The Irish Independent
    Saturday, 14th February, 2004
    Marese McDonagh

    OPPOSITION TDs in the West reacted with fury yesterday when Transport Minister Seamus Brennan promised to set up a working group to examine the feasibility of re-opening the rail link between Sligo and Limerick without making any firm commitments on funding.

    Mr Brennan, who visited five stations on the Western Rail Corridor, said that while it would be a populist gesture to make an immediate announcement about the project, he had to be conscious that taxpayers' money was at stake.

    But the minister said he was very impressed by a report from the campaigning group, West on Track, which found that the cost of reopening the rail link would be less than €250m. He promised that the working group, which is to include department and Iarnrod Eireann representatives, would begin work within days.

    Sligo-Leitrim Independent TD Marian Harkin said she was "dumbfounded and very disappointed" at the minister's failure to give a firm commitment on the project. "They are spending €37m to allow the Luas cross the road in Dublin but they can't find money for this vital rail link."

    Fine Gael TD Michael Ring also criticised Mr Brennan, saying he had not given any commitment - despite the fact that West on Track's report showed that the project was viable. Referring to the minister's plan to set up a working group, he added: "This country is full of reports. What we need are euros."

    Fr Micheal MacGreil, who has campaigned on this issue for more than 25 years, said he believed from "reading between the lines" that the minister had given a commitment to the project, and said his visit to counties Mayo, Galway and Sligo had been a positive development.

    The minister had warned campaigners yesterday that the 114-mile rail network between Collooney, Co Sligo and Ennis would not be built on sentiment or emotion. But Fr MacGreil said there was no sentiment in yesterday's report. It was based on hard facts from experts in Ireland and England who believed the project was viable.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭ishmael whale

    In fairness to the West on Track campaign, if they've put effort into drafting a genuine feasibility study it at least deserves consideration. But the response to some of the comparisons ascribed to the politicians is simply that a few miles of Dublin Metro track would probably carry more passengers, and make a greater contribution to making peoples lives more liveable.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,107 ✭✭✭John R

    To be fair, a few miles of metro on its own would be useless without the rest of it.
    I think the point they are making is that the official study vastly inflated the costs and the real costs are relatively minor in relation to some of the transport schemes currently being pushed by the government.

    As for it being worthwhile, my opinion is that the Limerick - Galway section would be very beneficial both for city - city and commuters as both cities' roads are increasingly congested. The Galway - Tuam section is also a good bet for commuter traffic alone, as for the rest I would say the overall benefits are more questionable. Although the journey times may not be any better than road that doesn't necessarily make it unnatractive, several well lines in Ireland are significantly slower than road bt are still well used. Also rail is far better at attracting people away from cars than busses.
    Politically for the activists it makes sense to campaign the line as a whole because it creates a much larger support base to lobby with.

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭ishmael whale

    I'd query your statement that rail lines that are slower than road are well used. Firstly, my understanding is that rail is generally not used that much in Ireland compared to other forms of transport, and that the view has been advocated that our population distribution is such that its not really suited to Irish conditions.

    Secondly, I can accept that a minority of travellers might have a particular gra for rail that would mean they would use it even if it was quicker to go by bus. But I find it hard to accept that rail would be greatly preferred to bus, even if it took longer. For example, I think I'm right in saying that the Dublin-Wexford train takes forever, and, while the route might be scenic if you're on holiday, if what you are looking for is transportation road is quicker. Has anybody figures on how many people actually travel between Wexford and Dublin by train as compared to other modes?

    As to the variation in cost estimates, my picture (prehaps incorrect) is that the difference was the Government estimate was on the basis of a more expensive project involving faster trains. West=on=track are suggesting slower trains, which at least some rail cognoscenti suggest would not be an attractive alternative to road. I've seen some comment on the proposal to the effect that rail travel has to be significantly quicker to be attractive as it inevitably involves additional travel to and from the station at each end of the journey.

    On the cost factor, if the campaign have produced figures certainly they should be looked at and if the benefits compare well to the benefits of other projects, fine they have a case. I just wonder when some purists say that Dublin's population is too spread out to justify commuter rail, how a service aimed at a smaller population over a greater area can be justified.

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,306 ✭✭✭✭Victor

    Originally posted by ishmael whale
    But I find it hard to accept that rail would be greatly preferred to bus, even if it took longer.
    You can work (and eat, drink and use the toilet) on a train, you can't work in a car or a bus.

    To use a car you also need to buy and upkeep said car and learn how to drive.

  • Moderators Posts: 3,815 ✭✭✭LFCFan

    Originally posted by ishmael whale
    my understanding is that rail is generally not used that much in Ireland

    What do you expect when you are charged rediculous tickets prices and not even garaunteed a seat in an old piece of junk carraige. Maybe if there was a state of the art train system that you could feel comfortable on and always get a seat, rail travel could become more popular.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,393 ✭✭✭Eurorunner

    Well, i think it fair enough to say that like so many things, it *could* be made to work - everything is possible if theres enough commitment from all vested interests. Anybody whos willing to try and make things better has my support.

    I dont have any technical knowledge of rail, etc. but i do know that previously loss making lines in the more rural outlying areas of germany and france have been turned over to private operators - they now run services with more efficient rolling stock without the heavy losses. The point is that they found another way to keep the lines/services in place.

    As regards people not using the rail service here, maybe there are problems with whats being provided.

    We're far too conservative here in how such things are approached imo.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 173 ✭✭P11 Comms

    In every case the fixed cost of the track maintenance has been taken over by the Regional Government. All the rail operator has to do is run the services. The massive burden of maintaining the tracks is removed from the private rail company. The pay a nominal fee for access. Can’t happen in Ireland because local authorities cannot levy taxes.

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 173 ✭✭P11 Comms

    Where are some of you people getting this idea from that nobody in Ireland uses trains! Our rail system has never been more popular (bursting at the seems on many routes) and the main problem with the system now is a lack of capacity for train paths. Too many trains – not enough track. This is only because of the success of rail transport in Ireland, not because of a failure. This is why Irish Rail have to do things like the DASH programme and build new stations at Spencer dock and all over the network to cater to this massive increased demand for rail transport in Ireland.

    We are suffering today because governments in the past shut down thousand of miles of railways mainly in the 1960’s. You try getting on a train at any station within a 50 miles radius of Dublin in the morning rush hour and you tell me nobody is using these lines. Likewise stand at Connelly and Heuston and watch the huge numbers of people either getting off, or queuing to get on inter-city service to places such as Sligo, Westport, Galway, Limerick and everywhere a train still goes to on this island.

    The rail system in a state of flux, because of decades of government trying to destroy the railways and it was only the gridlock/congestion we have now that saved them from being completely closed down. Sure, some of the routes have bad carriages, but most of them don’t in 2004 and huge numbers of new trains are in order. Our rail fares are one of the most inexpensive in the Western World. Irish Rail are playing 50 year of catch-up and all things considered are doing very well. Blame Irish governments of the past. In a few years the difference will be noticed.

    We at Platform11 have been very critical of Irish Rail management in the past but in the last six months some great changes have happened. The new services introduced last December was a major improvement and things will only get better.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,455 ✭✭✭dmeehan

    Originally posted by P11 Comms
    In every case the fixed cost of the track maintenance has been taken over by the Regional Government. All the rail operator has to do is run the services. The massive burden of maintaining the tracks is removed from the private rail company. The pay a nominal fee for access. Can’t happen in Ireland because local authorities cannot levy taxes.

    well we dont have "regional" govts as such, so why dont the state hang on to the infrastructure, and seperate it from Irish rail. maybe CIE could be given the actual rails and/or stations to maintain when brennan finnaly gets around to splitting up cie?

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 173 ✭✭P11 Comms

    well we dont have "regional" govts as such, so why dont the state hang on to the infrastructure, and seperate it from Irish rail. maybe CIE could be given the actual rails and/or stations to maintain when brennan finnaly gets around to splitting up cie?
    [end quote]

    sorry buffybot more biased puppy dog stuff from Platform11:

    Platform11 Demands "Open Access" on Rail Network
    Date: 30 January, 2004
    From: Derek Wheeler (PRO)
    Issued by: Platform11 Press Office (

    Competition is good. Competition works, and if there is any more succinct example then it has to be the success of Ryan Air and the sensational benefits it has brought to Irish air travel. Platform11 supports Minister Brennan's plans to break-up CIE and remove Irish Rail from this semi-state dinosaur and allow it to flourish as a stand-alone company. The past year has be one of positive change within Irish Rail. A new timetable coupled with a dynamic new management structure has delivered to the Irish rail passenger new rail services which would have been unimaginable this time last year. There is only one missing element in this great leap forward for Irish rail transport and that is competition on the rail network.

    Fact. Competition on the rail network even in small country like Ireland is possible. Contrary to popular myths and certain ideological mandates emanating mainly from Liberty Hall, supplemental rail transport companies could generate significant increases in capacity and deliver a whole new range of services to the Irish railway passenger which are currently missing for the present arrangement. Platform11 is under no circumstances looking for a UK-style privatisation approach where market forces dictate the operational constraints of the railway network. Ireland is a country in Europe, and the UK is not the only country to have railways and Platform11would appear to be the only organisation in Ireland who seems to realise this.

    In several European countries different railway companies compete against each other on the same rail lines. From Italy to Scandinavia there are other approaches to competition on rail networks and in Ireland we need to take note of this and stop constantly looking at the mistakes of the UK as if it is the conclusive proof that only nationalised railways with no competition work. This is simply not the case. Both types can co-exist successfully. There are dozens of private railways in Switzerland which have been providing competition and complementary services to the national rail carrier SBB for decades. Switzerland and Japan are consistently rated as having the best railways in the world. In both cases the state-run railways are subject to competition by private operators. The superb railway transport these countries enjoy is not an accident. Competition coupled with good governmental support in key areas of investment is the deciding factor.

    So how do we make competition on the Irish railways a viable and real concept? By simply declaring "Open Access" on the railway lines themselves. The ownership of the tracks, stations and signalling systems should be removed from Irish Rail and like a motorway can be used by other operators. Platform11 clearly wants Irish Rail to continue to receive tax payer subsidies, but only for services and not for track and station maintenance. This should be handed over to a railway version of the National Roads Authority. Such a situation will free Irish Rail from upgrading, maintaining and developing infrastructure and allow them to concentrate on the services themselves, and more importantly this would allow other private operators to use the system to run their own services in competition with Irish Rail.

    At the end of this year Irish Rail will take delivery of 67 new state-of-the-art carriages. This coupled with the on-going delivery of railcars, will give them a large surplus of good quality coaches which they could sell or lease to private operators who may wish to used them on trains of their own or connected to existing Irish Rail services. These could be specialised services aimed at the business traveller where for a nominal
    additional fee, business passengers would avail of concepts which are standard in other European countries such as "quiet" coaches where mobile phones and stereos are forbidden and these coaches would be isolated from the rest of the train. This would prevent the all too depressingly common scourge of rowdiness and antisocial behaviour impacting on people who just want a quite train journey. There is no reason why such a concept could not develop into new trains and services run by private operators using the current empty slots in the inter-city time table. The key to all this is Open Access on the rail network.

    Platform11 calls on Minister Brennan to implement such a scheme using the Dublin to Cork mainline as the first rail route in the country for Open Access. Imagine in 2006 a situation where not only do we have the existing Irish Rail services, but also, a Belfast-Dublin-Cork service operated by Translink/NIR as well as a private operators such as Connex providing late night trains, as well as relief services between Dublin and Cork serving all or selected locations in between. It happens in other countries and it can and SHOULD happen here.

    A railway service which provides a "one size fits all" service, or the frankly pathetic scenario of a modern 21st century economy with a national rail network which begins shutting down at teatime is not good enough anymore. Open Access correctly implemented can liberate not only Irish Rail, but transform the way we think about and use railways in Ireland.

    ENDS 30/01/04

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭ishmael whale

    With respect to previous contributors, there doesn't seem to be much consideration of Irish conditions. Referring to services in Switzerland and Japan don't appear to be much of a guide as these countries have much higher population densities.

    In considering Irish conditions, it should be possible to source some facts. I do recall seeing figures some time ago to the effect that Irish long distance rail services required a high subsidy and didn't carry as many passengers as long distance bus services, which did not require much by way of subsidy. To bring the matter to a conclusion takes a little more than pointing out that passengers can work and generally have more freedom of movement on a train. It needs consideration of whether rail can actually turn its perceived advantages into bums on seats. The contention of rail skeptics (which I am nearly convinced by) is that rail is not suited to Irish conditions, and so won't attract enough business to justify the investment.

    The proof of the pudding would be either to show somewhere with a similar population distribution where it does work (remembering that relieving the train operator of responsibility for the rail network is the same as giving them a subsidy. Roads get used by all kinds of people who pay road tax which contributes to the cost of provision, but rail is only used by rail service providers.) On the other side, it is necessary to consider where a rail service is provided in parallel to bus and private car, which is the more popular route. This is does not mean saying 'look at the crowds in that station", it means saying "Dublin to Westport rail line gets X bums on seats per year, bus on the same route gets y bums on seats and private cars carry Z bums on seats." Anything less that this is wishful thinking.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,393 ✭✭✭Eurorunner

    @ishmael: so if you suggest that we should realise the error of our ways and close the airport (knock), that we should not utilise the railway line, have we just reached agreement on one point - that the road network in the West of Ireland should be upgraded?

    Or should it remain irelands national park?

    apologies, for OT but above follows on from another discussion(knock airport thread) which runs along related lines ..(no pun intended).

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 540 ✭✭✭Andrew Duffy

    Countries with near-identical populations and densities -

    Good example - Finland: (fan page)

    Carbon copy of Ireland (note photo of truck on rail operator's homepage) - New Zealand: (fan page - recognise anything)

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭ishmael whale

    As to road development, roads making useful linkages to and from the West would be better than having unneeded airports and rail lines. As to whether the West develops isn't in my gift or any government's gift. Its dependant on the West having something that needs connecting to.

    I'm not too sure what I'm supposed to be looked at in the links above. Open up the Finland site and see trains to Europe and trains to Russia, reminding you that these people have land borders that take them elsewhere.

    New Zealand is more promising, so long as the concrete example bear some relationship to Ireland. In Ireland a typical rail route competes with a road route carrying buses that can make the same journey in much the same time. Presumably this is why our rail fares are said to be low by comparison with abroad - if rail costs too much people will simply switch to bus. I don't know much about New Zealand - a quick search suggests that while their crude population density is lower than ours, in fact their population is highly urbanised, and mostly concentrated on the North Island. The practical situation for rail services might actually be quite different. Do they have an equivalent of the Dublin Westport line?

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 173 ✭✭P11 Comms

    Isamale, there is no Dublin-Westport Line. It is a branch line running off the Athlone-Ballina line. There is a Dublin-Westport service. This does not mean there is a track running from Dublin directly to Westport and serves nothing in-between as you seem to think. It also serves all the major towns in etween as well.

    I suggest you actually learnabout rail transport, perhaps even travel on a train in Ireland. Stand in Heuston and Connolly and look at what is happening before you make any more comments about railways and rail transportation system which you seem to have the most biased opinion against, and yet at the same time you seem utterly ignornat of them.

    You seem to think that everybody in Ireland has a car and railways are somehow surplus to Ireland's requirements (and always wil be) and that somehow the revenue derived from car/petrol sales/tax pays for the €20 Euro NRA road building programme. Not even close I am sorry to say.

    What is especially depressing is the lack of understanding on the part of Government and folks such as yourself concerning an appropriate fiscal framework for both road and rail transport. Policy is currently that rail must pay its way and must cover all costs including all track/infrastructure costs. Cars, lorries and buses pay taxes on fuel and annual licenses. Do these cover the full "road" costs in terms of wear and tear on roads and also the external costs such as noise, air pollution, accidents and the time lost to the economy by people and goods being stuck in traffic jams. The Department of Finance and yourself thinks in very blinkered direct-cash terms, and never take much notice of external environmental and socio-economic costs.

    One of the most common misconceptions paraded about in Irish media and Governmental circles regarding the "viability" of rail transport project outside Dublin is the old "railways can only operate in regions with high population densities". This "fact", so beloved of motorways planners and builders who seem to immune to the same scenario being applied to themselves, even though new motorways are much more expensive to construct than a new double track electrified railway route. But more importantly, one piece of logic or "fact" that is completely lost on Irish transport planners; motorways increase traffic congestion, not reduce it, However, even in the face of overwhelming international evidence to the contrary, rail is still saddled with the stigma of being an urban phenomena in Ireland.

    Once you get outside of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford cities, you don't need motorways, the traffic levels don't merit it. Diverting the funds that would otherwise be spent on egotistical activities by the NRA into rail transport would work wonders for traffic congestion in Ireland. Even in Germany, the heart of the EU, they have single carriageway inter town roads with alternating overtaking lanes for a mile or so at a time. If this is good enough for the efficient Germans, why not for Ireland? But still Ireland remains obsessed with the 1950's Anglo-American discredited and socially infantile notion of the motorway being the endgame in all transport. In the more enlightened world, sensible rail and road are viewed as the binary approach to the problem.

    In the Irish Times as recently as August 2003, Kevin Meyers who among his many other talents, would have us believe that his undoubted expertise regarding rail transport when he wrote "You cannot have a sensible railway system between a low-population region and a city. For a railway to make sense, traffic must essentially be generated equally at each end: otherwise, you simply have empty trains on one leg of the journey." What a pity that Mr. Meyers didn't do something called "research" into the subject matter before embarking on another round of his legendary hyperbole. The facts are, that aside from the Irish government/NRA's obsession to tarmacing the Irish countryside with mega motorways (when in nearly every case a good dual carriageway and by-passes would suffice), the reality is that over the world railways successfully serve regions of comparable and even lower population densities than many regions of rural Ireland.

    "Do they serve the population and local economy?" That is the real question to be answered. In Canada, the Quebec, North Shore and Labrador. Ontario Northland. and Algoma Central. all serve regions which fall into the category of "vast empty wilderness" and even the most remote regions of Ireland would be densely populated by comparison and yet in Canada, rail transport serves these extremely rural areas. They are funded and treated as important public services. If railways are not viable becuse they "don;t generate returns to the Department of Finance"and should be closed, then do the same to footpaths and traffic lights and cycle paths...

    As one commentator on another message board stated. "the dereliction of the Western Rail Corridor has been rightfully compared to the ESB and the Rural Electrification programme of the ‘50s – had the ESB taken the same view to their infrastructure, the West would still be lit by oil-lamp. In this regard, those who have aggressively criticised others for highlighting the closure rate have missed the point, and the implication of such an outlook is that one should not consider re-opening some of the lines currently closed. The issue of the 20 Billion being spent on the roads programme is critical in that it is only the tip of the iceberg of the true costs involved. Although high taxes on vehicle imports and petrol create an economic illusion of balancing the exchequers books, the reality is that these commodities are sourced solely through importing - and hence the cash-flow in this sector is predominately exiting the country. Now if one were to add these costs up, plus the amount proportional to the CO2 emissions that shall have to be paid as fines under our Kyoto Protocol obligations …Well that could be the next interesting statistic!"

    What makes the NRA megalomania even more perverse, is that along many of the proposed mega motorway routes are not only next to parallel 'N' Roads which can be upgraded to meet the current and future needs of the regions, but in many cases currently used or "mothballed" rail routes which could be restored and make a real difference to gridlock and traffic congestion as they do in many other countries. Something that huge motorways will never do, as their purpose is to channel more road traffic into towns and cities.

    The only solution to less traffic and freer roads is more passengers and freight on railways as the Belgians, Swiss, Austrians, Danes and many other countries from the USA to Australia have already discovered. First-class radial rail routes with good orbital or inter-regional rail routes will make cars an option and not the only option which is the 50 year old failed Anglo-American folly which the NRA seem to believe is the only future for Ireland.

    All over Ireland such rail lines area already exsists or the alignments are already in place. All of these lines could be rebuilt and put into service for less than some of the proposed over specified NRA road projects and yet, it is rail, the more economical option that has to constantly prove it's "viability". What about the millions of Irish people who don't have cars? Apparently the Irish Government ministers in their private limos don't know these people exist in Ireland either. "How about motorways and buses then and forget the railways?" What about the Kyoto agreement and Ireland already heavy emissions? One commuter trains can take 600 passengers using the same energy as a bus and one freight train can take 14 lorries off the road.

    We at Platform11 has to wonder if the NRA and Irish Government were in charge of tackling obesity in Ireland would they do it by opening a McDonalds on every corner? And yet, this is the kind of methodology they use to tackle our emissions and traffic problems.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭ishmael whale

    Sometimes differing views are based on misconception. However, you are wrong to assign that argument to me in this case. I travelled on the Dublin Westport train several times until I found road was just a better option, and whether you want to call it a line or a service makes no difference to me. I have stood in Heuston and Connolly, but more instructive is the sad looking carriage waiting at Manulla Junction to take a few stragglers to Ballina.
    To accept your argument requires a love for rail. Everyone doesn’t own a car, but bus services are an obvious alternative serving more locations with greater flexibility than rail. And I draw your attention to, for example, the availability of private bus services between Dublin and Galway despite existence of rail. If rail was so goddam good this should not happen.
    You are right to point out that motorways are probably overamibitous on some routes, but that’s an argument for smaller roads, not rail. EU funds do distort the picture, but the point is that car tax and tax on fuel brings in serious money. Rail does not. You seem to suggest that electric rail is environmentally sound at the point of consumption and maybe it is, but if it requires a massive subsidy to be generated elsewhere (also with environmental impact) it may not be worth doing.
    As regards the examples you give from Canada, I wonder how truly comparable they are. We have a small island, and with a modest road network it should be possible to get from one end to the other quickly and cheaply. I’m not convinced that rail would do this better, and the travelling public seem to agree.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,393 ✭✭✭Eurorunner

    Even in Germany, the heart of the EU, they have single carriageway inter town roads with alternating overtaking lanes for a mile or so at a time.

    This is what has been talked about recently and is the ideal solution on many routes. The above could be put in place with he foresight to future proof such schemes - securing the space for possible upgrade if needed.

    Its the ideal solution in many instances and the one the country can afford.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 78,306 ✭✭✭✭Victor

    ishmael, only a little over a half of families in Dublin City have cars. How are they meant to travel, especially as a family group?

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 173 ✭✭P11 Comms

    Ishmale, I have lived in Austria and there I saw how amazingly useful railways can be if they are funded and work properly. You don't get the third world traffic vistas there or in Denmark you get in Ireland. Road and rail work together and your transport Dawinism based on people who buy petrol being at the top of the social preference listing is self-destructive and when the Kyoto fines start kicking in we'll see just how "viable" this car-obsessed culture really is in this country. I do believe if people are given a choice of a good rail service they leave the car at home. The bus has failed to get people out of their cars in the number rail does and will even in Ireland when a decent service is provided. All over the world it has been proven that rail is the only mode which lures car communters away from traffic jams. Buses are viewed as another form of car in which you have no control over - so what's the point. You cannot tell the bus driver to pull to the nearest toilet or coffee shop - on a train you can get coffee and use the loo. Victor and a few others have already pointed this out to you. This is why railways in Ireland remain hugly popular and are growing in ridership all the time as services improve.

    If the DART concept was exported nationwide more and more people around Ireland would leave their car at home and we would have freer roads. You are living in the 1950's and the Westport train is currently made up of MKIII coches which are very nice and the Manulla transfer is being turned over the diesel railcars shortly. The changes on our rail service at the moment is rapid, working and badly needed and people are using it - even the ones with cars when they find a train which suits them.

    back to the Western Rail Corridor:

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭ishmael whale

    Victor, I have a feeling that its a little over a half of households rather than families in Dublin City that have cars, and that a household could be a fine strapping young lad living alone in a flat in Rathmines. In any case, households are rarely on the same scale as the Catholic family in Python's "Every Sperm is Sacred" routine. And its not so much how are they meant to travel, they do travel and if its by public transport its probably by bus. (That's how we used to do it in our day. Of course it was only a cardbox box pulled by a Cocker Spaniel, but it was bus to us.) That said, rail services might make sense on commuter routes where there is a demand. Its the service to places like Westport that seems pointless.

    P11 Comms, firstly Austria has land borders which I take it means that you can travel to other countries by rail. You can't do that here. I think I've already mentioned that here, but you don't seem to be addressing this. Rather than over optimistic assertions that rail will work as well here as on the continent of Europe, where its connecting lots of large cities together, you need to look at what our needs are. If you put in a service that people don't use then you have simply spent a load of money for no benefit.

    Your contention that rail will be more successful than bus at getting people out of their cars seems flawed. I've already mentioned a few services where rail is available, but unattractive compared to either bus or rail. I'm not ignoring the point that Victor has made to the effect that on some trains you can get coffee and use the loo. I'm just pointing out that, whatever about the theory, in practice this does not seem to be enough of an enticement for people to use it. If you have an option to use a competing form of transport that's quick enough so the question of using the loo doesn't arise, then such facilities are irrelevant.

    You seem to be blinded by a love for rail as a mode of transport, which is presumably why you refer to it as 'hugly popular' which is a bit of an overstatement. I don't follow your statement that I am living in the 1950's, if this is suppose to refer to my journeys to Westport in the nineties. My problem with the line had nothing to do with the coaches being 'very nice' or otherwise. It was simply that there was no point in going to the trouble of taking the train, and as the road improved over the years there was even less (than no) point. My point about the Manulla transfer had nothing to do with carriages vs diesel railcars. It was simply that I never saw too many people using that service. I certainly saw nothing to suggest that anything would be gained by reopening the Western Rail Corridor.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 540 ✭✭✭Andrew Duffy

    Last time I checked we shared a land border with the UK, and there was a regular train service between the two countries. Has anything changed in the meantime? Northern Ireland floated off into the Atlantic, by any chance?

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭ishmael whale

    OK, I think we can both agree that Republican Sinn Fein are completely out to lunch and recognise that our fair land is sundered. But clearly the point is that any rail service in Ireland can only serve the few of us that live on this island, where if we were located around the same spot as Austria it might connect us to several hundred million people living in other countries. That option does not exist here.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,107 ✭✭✭John R

    Several hundred million people on one train would be a bit of a tight squeeze, your only evidence to suggest there are not enough passengers on the lines you mention is your own observation. I have regularly been on packed trains on both the Westport and Wexford lines so unless you can provide some figures to back up your argument that they are not well used your arguement holds no sway.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭ishmael whale

    Iarnrod Éireann receives a state funding of €220 million, on top of €168 million in subvention of unprofitable routes and €18 million for the railway safety programme. With that level of subsidy the onus is on advocates of rail to show there is some benefit for all this money, rather than the onus being on rail sceptics to show its all a waste. The need to provide a significant subsidy suggests there are not enough passengers on the lines, so some significant good has to be pointed to as justification. Or putting it another way, you need to produce an argument that 'holds sway'.

    For what its worth,

    According to the above report by an Oireachtas Committee, rail accounts for only 10% of passenger journeys (this seems to include DART). The report also notes that, because of the way our population is spread around, rail is not particularly suited to our conditions.

    This strikes me as fairly uncontroversial. Why waste money on a service that people don’t need when we could serve more people and more locations more cheaply with buses?

    (Incidently, do you really have so little to say that you have to interpret my remark that rail services on the continent of Europe serve a population of hundreds of millions as “hundreds of millions on the same train”.)

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 540 ✭✭✭Andrew Duffy

    Do you know how much state funding the National Roads Authority gets? And do you know how much the local authorities get to build important non-national routes and maintain the local road network? This money is an investment in the nation, as is funding for expanding and maintaining the rail network. Funding subsidising the operation of the rail network is an investment in keeping our economy and our chances of even meeting half our Kyoto protocol agreements alive - something that forcing ever more people into cars or the unattractive option of buses will not achieve.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭ishmael whale

    The extent to which rail can contribute to our Kyoto commitments depends on its ability to efficiently attract people from other forms of transport. Taking the undigested experience of rail services in high population density Europe and applying it to low density Ireland runs the considerable risk of misapplying resources to an unsuitable form of transport. So we still miss Kyoto, but waste a whole pile of cash in the doing.

    Consider the Review of Transport Infrastructure Investment Needs, done by DKM consultants in 1999 and cited by the Oireachtas Committee on Transport.

    "The strongest markets for inter-urban passenger rail are city-pairs at distances which compete with the private car, at the shorter end, and with air travel, at the longer end. Rail is not competitive for shorter inter-urban trips, because total journey time, allowing for mode changes, will be shorter by car. Over longer distances, air travel will be quicker. The optimal market for inter-urban rail would be a city-pair with big cities at both ends, and distance at least 300 kms, but less than about 600 or 700 kms, where rail begins to lose out to air. Paris-Lyons, or Frankfurt-Munich, would be examples of inter-urban markets where the rail mode is an advantage.

    Ireland does not have any city-pairs which meet these criteria. The closest is Dublin-Cork, with a distance of about 260 kms. But Cork is a small city, which limits service frequency, and the distance is short enough to leave the car mode competitive for many trips.

    Dublin-Belfast is shorter, at about 175 kms, but the city of Belfast [is] considerably larger than Cork. Commercial and social traffic between the two is modest, and rail traffic Dublin-Belfast is much lower than on the Dublin-Cork line."

    Bus Éireann carries 89,358 million (about half of which are school transport) passenger journeys in a year, with a loss of €35.9 million. Rail carries 35 million at the cost cited above (about €400million). From what I can derive from such sources as I can find, about €50 million of the subsidy relates to DART. Incidently, about 25 million of those rail journeys seem to be on DART. So when people say rail is ‘hugely popular’ what they really mean is DART is hugely popular.

    I recall seeing information to the effect that some individual services on the Cork route are profitable (3 million passengers), so the bulk of the subsidy seems to relate to the lesser used lines. So we’re spending the guts of €350 million for 7 million journeys, or about €40 euro a journey. A five day return to Westport or Galway is €35. To make the train service happen we have to triple their money – while Bus Eireann report they can make a profit on their Dublin Galway bus route. Its just plain nuts.

    Faced with figures like these its no surprise that when it comes to investing money in transport we put it in roads. To do otherwise would be plain irresponsible.

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 540 ✭✭✭Andrew Duffy

    There are several points being missed here. Firstly, all over the world people use rail to commute medium distances because it is more comfortable and convenient than driving, or because they can sleep or work on the train, or for whatever other reason they have. The key in attracting people out of their cars is to make the alternative attractive - the service needs to be frequent, and it needs to be comfortable. Trains win that one 2-1 over buses, which are an uncomfortable way to travel.
    However, in Ireland we don't have frequent trains between our cities, and they aren't particularly comfortable - it is rarely possible to actually buy a seat on a train, for example. This needs to change.
    The second point being missed is that traveling by road is not something we can sustain into the future due to the inevitable increase in the fiscal and environmental cost of burning fossil fuels. Efficient electrified transport (rail again) is the only solution we have to this at the moment. If we abandon our railway infrastructure now we will probably have to rebuild it at enormous cost in the future.
    The third point isn't so much one being missed as one that is just plainly incorrect - rail journey times over short to medium distances are usually shorter due to traffic congestion, and over long distance are usually much shorter due to high speeds impossible without the control supplied by rails and automatic signalling. Once again, Ireland has a defecit here in that our fastest lines are capable of only 100mph. This is likely to change in the future as Cork-Dublin-Belfast is upgraded and electrified.
    This brings me to the final point. EU policy is to maximise use of existing rail infrastructure for passenger and freight service, and to provide new strategic links, of which a high-speed Cork-Dublin-Belfast service is one. Railways are here to stay.

This discussion has been closed.