Irish Rail has ‘wrong’ timetables, claim Tipperary Councillors

Frustration: Commuters can't get to hospitals, work or study on time

Irish Rail has ‘wrong’ timetables, claim Tipperary Councillors

Cahir railway station has no ticket machines, and has become a ‘hot spot’ for anti-social behaviour, warned Cllr Marie Murphy

Irish Rail needs to update its timetables from Tipperary town to Limerick, Cork, Dublin, and Waterford if it is to properly serve the people of the area, warned Councillors at the Tipperary municipal district meeting.

Barry Kenny of Irish Rail briefed Councillors on plans the company has for Co Tipperary.

“The network will be maintained and developed from a safety point of view,” he said. There will be investment in a new fleet of carriages, the first will come on line in 2024. The intercity carriages “will be freed up for use.” Concerns have been raised about vegetation along the line, and animal incursions, and trespass. Where fencing has been replaced, these will be replaced with native hedging.

Cllr Michael Fitzgerald said that his main issue is the Dublin, Waterford, and Limerick connections. “People see that the timetables are all wrong.” People cannot use the trains for hospital appointments, he said. “If you’re going to Dublin or Cork, you will not be in before 9am in the morning. We depend a lot on those links for bringing people here. We really need to look seriously at timetables, and to link to Limerick commuter services. It’s not just for older people.”

Cllr Ann-marie Ryan gave the example of a train to Waterford that leaves at 9.55am - the majority of students go to Waterford or Limerick from Tipperary town. “They come back on Fridays, but cannot go back on Sundays. Unless you invest in the lines, you will not make money. If your times were better, the numbers of people would be much bigger. There is demand in Tipperary to link to Limerick and Dublin.

“People cannot go to work in Cork on time. There is a big move now to get people out of cars. If we address the timetabling issue you will see an increase in usage. When was the timetable last changed,” asked Cllr Ryan.

Cllr Andy Moloney said a group called Save Our Hedgerows has emerged.

Hedgerows along rail lines have been “totally decimated”. Cllr Moloney asked that IR accept a deputation from the group, which recently held a protest. “The timetables are just not good enough. They need to be more accessible,” he said.

Cllr Mary Hanna Hourigan said it’s a “care issue.” “The condition of the station in Cahir - there is no ticketing machine.” A wealthy organisation like IR should provide that, she said.

Cllr Roger Kennedy said commuters cannot get a good transfer from the Dublin to Cork line. What is the demand, and what should the usage on those trains be, asked Cllr Kennedy.

Cllr Tony Black said he knows people living in Cork who want to return to live in Tipperary town “but they cannot get to work.” As a result, “they are not spending money in the area.” Tipperary is “losing out on investment.”

If the timetables were better, “we would see more people coming to live here. They’re not able to get back to Waterford on Sundays. It’s not feasible.”

Cllr Máirín McGrath said she had just finished a 3-year degree and “could never get a train from Cahir even though it’s only up the road from me. The connectivity just does not exist.” So much of the rail infrastructure is focused on Dublin, she said. “It needs to enlarge into rural Ireland, into smaller towns.”

Cllr Marie Murphy said that IR had removed hedgerows in 2018 along rail lines. A number of landowners between Cahir and Clonmel adjacent to the lines “received intimidating letters” from Irish Rail, she said. The letters stated that they “would be held legally liable for accidents” that might occur if hedgerows were involved. “Why did Irish Rail adopt such an aggressive position,” asked Cllr Murphy, who requested a copy of the current specifications regarding fencing. Any plans to invest in the Cahir station should serve those going to Waterford, she added.

Cllr Declan Burgess said it’s the “hardest thing to do” to make a complaint to IR. “There’s no point complaining. You’re given a big long list of things to do. It’s very expensive to travel by train. I certainly miss my student rate in recent years.”

Mr Kenny said he took “on board” the suggestions regarding Sundays. Timetabling is a “balancing act” when services are stretched.

“We cannot take away services from areas that need them more. The last time the timetables were changed was back in the 00’s. Capacity is at a premium. There had been a recruitment embargo. Now we have more train drivers coming on stream.” Mr Kenny said he had received correspondence from the SOH group.

“I don’t believe our correspondence to landowners was intimidating in any way,” he said. “Trains are Dublin focused because that’s where the people flow is, but as Limerick and Cork grow, that develops the justification for building infrastructure in those cities.”

Cllr Marie Murphy said Cahir station has become a “hot spot” for anti-social behaviour. There is a €2.6m investment plan to try and improve it.