Rail system better under British, SF ardfheis hears

Delegate tells ardfheis cyclists who use footpaths are ‘among worst criminals’

A steam train  pictured at  Rathdrum Railway Station 2012 as part of a Railway Preservation Society of Ireland trip. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Rail

A steam train pictured at Rathdrum Railway Station 2012 as part of a Railway Preservation Society of Ireland trip. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Rail

Sat, Feb 8, 2014, 21:07

Ireland’s rail transport system was better under the British, the Sinn Féin ardfheis has heard.

Derry MLA Cathal O hOisin said “in 1890 no town or village in Ireland was more than five miles from a rail track. Many counties now, such as Tyrone, Fermanagh and Donegal have not heard or seen a train for over 60 years.”

During a debate on transport he said “huge swathes of the west and particularly the north-west are devoid of any meaningful transport system on the road or any rail network”.

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Describing the difference in treatment between the east and west in Ireland as another “insidious form of partition”, he said the road system in the North and west was waiting for an upgrade for many years and the Derry to Dublin route claimed lives on a regular basis, including the deaths of three people since January.

The Derry to Belfast road remains bottlenecked at Dungiven, he said. Sinn Féin had campaigned for 40 years for this bypass which would have cost £1 million in 1971 and it would cost £61 million (€73.4 million) today.

He said Dublin and the Northern DUP must co-operate to deliver this and other infrastructure including the Narrow Water bridge.

An Antrim delegate said he believed “cyclists who cycle on the footpath are among the worst criminals” because there was hardly a day “when I step off the streets in Dublin when I’m not nearly creamed by a cyclist as I stand at a bus stop”.

He said he was “profoundly in disagreement” with a motion, subsequently passed, which called for increased investment in the North for cycling from about 58 pence a person each year to£10.

The motion also called for consideration to be given to introducing a bicycle infrastructure similar to Amsterdam and Copenhagen and the enforcement of cycle lanes.

Earlier the party’s transport spokesman Dessie Ellis hit out at the Government’s “whole scale privatisation of public transport services” across the State.

He said the final preparations were being made this year by Fine Gael to privatise 10 per cent of Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus routes “as well as an incomprehensible 100 per cent of Waterford city services”.

He said “they call it open tendering but the reality is that public companies cannot compete with the private market when it comes to cherry picking these routes, misrepresenting costs and engaging in a race to the bottom on wages and conditions to workers”.

He said Sinn Fein believed a real transport system for all communities could only properly be delivered in public hands.