BUSINESS LEADERS in the southeast have described as “reckless foolishness” the planned closure of the Rosslare to Waterford railway line, linking two of the country’s principal ports.
The service, which had been due to close permanently from tomorrow, has received a temporary reprieve as various State bodies argue over its future.
Iarnród Éireann has confirmed that its plan to “suspend” trains from July 21st and launch a replacement Bus Éireann service will not be implemented as scheduled. The closure of the line cannot proceed without the approval of the National Transport Authority, which is not now expected to announce its decision until “at least” September.
The railway line has been operating since 1906, but has suffered a decline in use in recent years and now offers just one train a day in each direction, with no Sunday service. Iarnród Éireann says the line is no longer economically viable, and attracts a daily average of only 25 passengers.
But South East Chambers, an “umbrella body” representing chambers of commerce in Carlow, Clonmel, Dungarvan, Enniscorthy, Gorey, Kilkenny, New Ross, Waterford and Wexford have said the planned closure was “not acceptable”, and the decision had been made in “an ivory tower in Dublin”.
In an “open letter”, the chambers accused Iarnród Éireann of running down and ignoring the Rosslare-Waterford line, and said a replacement bus service would “fly in the face of Ireland’s commitment to the Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon emissions”.
They pointed out “the great success of the Dart and Luas” proved that “properly managed rail transport attracts a greater volume of passengers than buses”.
The letter also berated Iarnród Éireann for having “closed down railway lines with great enthusiasm”, including the “beloved Waterford to Tramore line, which was actually showing a profit”.
Tanya Fenelon, chair of Save the Railway Group, said the line had a future if Iarnród Éireann carried more freight to Belview (Waterford) and Rosslare ports; improved the timetable to connect with other lines, and expanded the service by running three trains a day, instead of just one.
She contrasted poor service in Rosslare with that “on the Welsh side at Fishguard, where dedicated ‘boat trains’ link immediately with London-bound high-speed trains at Swansea and Cardiff”.
Ms Fenelon said “during the recent airspace closure, the Waterford-Rosslare train was standing room only – testimony to the line’s strategic economic importance as an integral part of this State’s southern sea-rail access corridor”.
Opposing replacement buses, she claimed “the train is a much cheaper alternative at present than travelling by bus”, explaining “the Bus Éireann fare is nearly twice as expensive as the train: an adult return ticket from Rosslare Harbour to Waterford is €20.50 while a rail ticket is €10.50”.
On Iarnród Éireann’s claim that the line is losing money, she said last Saturday evening she “counted 43 passengers boarding at Waterford” but “there was no ticket checker on board”.