Passenger traffic on Limerick-Galway rail line up 57% in seven years

Review of controversial route may result in extension of line beyond Athenry

Passenger use on the controversial Limerick-Galway rail route has increased by 57 per cent over the past seven years. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

Passenger use on the controversial Limerick-Galway rail route has increased by 57 per cent over the past seven years. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

 

Passenger use on the controversial Limerick-Galway rail route has increased by 57 per cent over the past seven years, and by 288 per cent on the route between Ennis, Co Clare, and Athenry, Co Galway.

Irish Rail’s chief executive Jim Meade said the “strong growth” was recorded despite periods when the line was closed due to flooding for over three months in 2014 and five months in 2015.

The number of passengers on the Limerick-Galway route increased by about 128,000 from 224,000 to over 350,000 since 2011.

The route generated controversy when it reopened in 2010 at a cost of €110 million after it emerged that 320 passengers a day would use the route which would take longer to travel between the cities than by road. The 2017 figures mean almost 1,000 passengers use it per day.

The number of passengers on the Ennis to Athenry Route was up almost 100,000 between 2011 and 2017 to 134,000 from 34,000 per annum.

During the same period, there was 28 per cent growth on the Galway-Dublin line, a 13 per cent increase on the Westport line and a 10 per cent rise on the Sligo line, Mr Meade confirmed in a letter to Galway East Independent TD Sean Canney. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told Mr Canney that if a newly initiated review recommends extending the rail line further from Athenry to Tuam, it would be prioritised.

Last month, it was confirmed that Minister for Transport Shane Ross is undertaking a review of the project to extend the rail line to Claremorris, over two years after it was promised.

However, the Western Rail Trail Campaign which is campaigning to develop a greenway on the rail route, said the figures did not represent a success but a “failure”.

“The bulk of the numbers quoted in relation to passenger traffic on the western rail corridor are commuters using the Ennis-Limerick and Athenry-Galway lines, lines that already existed before the government built the Ennis-Athenry section for over €100 million,”the campaign said.

Mr Canney’s constituency colleagues in Galway East, Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon (Fine Gael) and Anne Rabbitte (Fianna Fáil), are supporting the greenway campaign.

Irish Rail said while it supported the use of “disused rail alignments generally as greenways where there is no realistic medium term prospect of a rail service being reinstated”, the Athenry to Claremorris line specifically “will be assessed under Programme for Government commitments”.