Rail links: a Tipperary County Council has questioned the value of county's rail lines
A senior official with Tipperary County Council has raised the question over whether or not Tipperary’s rail lines should remain open.
The Ballybrophy to Limerick line, which serves Roscrea, Nenagh, Cloughjordan and Birdhill, and the Tipperary Junction to Waterford line have been threatened with closure over the past number of years by Irish Rail.
Now, senior council official Pat Slattery has questioned why they should remain in use.
During a debate on rural transport at Nenagh Municipal District Council he asked if spending €5m on each line annually was the best spend for the county.
While he was not saying that they should be closed, Mr Slattery asked: “If you were given €10m would you spend it on two rail lines at a time when there was a huge need for rural transport?”
He stated that there were 4,000 people commuting from North Tipperary to Limerick daily, but less than 50 used the train.
Maintaining that each passenger cost the taxpayer €750 in subvention, he said: “Buses can go from door to door. Could we not get a better service to serve our needs.”
However, he was criticised by a number of councillors, with the main criticism coming from Cllr Joe Hannigan.
“Rather than shutting down the line, we should be asking how we can make it commercially viable,” he said.
Cllr Hannigan said that the timetable was “not user-friendly” and needed to change.
“We should hold what we have and look at upgrading it. Closing it won’t solve our rural transport problems,” he said.
He was backed by Cllr Hughie McGrath who said that the line should be looked at as not just going to Dublin, but could be a feeder line to help develop Shannon Airport.
“It’s a link to Limerick and to the airport,” he said.
Cllr McGrath pointed out that there were plans for a major road widening at Mackey roundabout in Limerick to cater for the volumes of traffic going into UL and Plassy.
“Can we not get a drop-off point and buses or trains to come out to meet the people there?” he asked.
“The trains do not travel in the right direction at the right time,” said Cllr Ger Darcy. “The service does not suit the people who would use it.”
He said that it “shouldn't be rocket science” to put a link to UL so students from North Tipperary could commute to college.
Cllr Seamus Morris said that he had spoken to staff at First Data in Nenagh, many of whom live in Limerick, and they had mentioned that they would like to see improvements in the rail links.
The fate of both lines is due to be debated by councillors at their next roads and transport SPC meeting.
The need to maintain both lines formed part of Tipperary County Council's submission in relation to the future development in the Premier County under the National Planning Framework.