Workers laying new continuous welded track on the Limerick / Ballybrophy Rail Line. The whole 91kms of the route is being upgraded and the works are nearly finished.
Irish Rail has spent €45.5m on the Ballybrophy to Limerick rail line which serves Tipperary, but it has resulted in no benefit to services, North Tipperary Community Rail Partnership told a Dáil committee this Tuesday.
The partnership revealed to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications that in the from 2011 to 2020, Irish Rail invested €22.8m on improvements, with a further €22.7m spent on day-to-day maintenance.
“There has been no significant improvement of services in terms of faster journeys or more train services. There are no rail services from Limerick to Ballybrophy between 06.30 and 16.55 and from Ballybrophy to Limerick between 10.05 and 17.05. There are no services on Sunday mornings or at all on the Sunday of bank holiday weekends,” they said in their presentation.
They pointed out that the timetable had essentially not changed since the restoration of full services after The Emergency and fuel crises of 1947.
“The only change has been the loss of direct services to Dublin, since 1986. Except for a brief period in 2012/13, all passengers must change at Ballybrophy to access stations on the line,” they said.
The partnership also told the committee that the line suffered from a lack of consistent and reliable services.
There are currently 31 passenger trains a week, or 1,567 a year. However, in each of the two years before Covid-19, over 200 services were replaced with buses. Due to Covid there were significant periods when there was no service on the line.
“When driver shortages occur our line’s services are the first to be replaced by buses,” they said.
They said that this created a perception that the line was closed or unreliable and was not helped by the fact that none of the stations on the line had real time information on display to update passengers.
The partnership also pointed out that, despite installing 24 miles of continuous welded track, a speed limit of 30mph remained, even though Irish Rail’s own standards allowed for speeds of 70mph.
It was only after persistent challenges by the campaign that Irish Rail had agreed to review the line speeds for the new timetable due out later this year, though they will not commit to speeds above 50mph. Even that, though , would reduce journey times by just over 19 minutes, they said.
“Our first goal is to make the line user friendly and relevant to the population it serves by the introduction of a third return service, seven days a week, utilising the existing available rolling stock allocated to the line. The additional service will help significantly increase choice and journey opportunities for passengers,” they said.
The partnership noted that the current Rail Review gave them us an opportunity to highlight several issues, including the concern that there was no policy for the development of rural or regional railways at Department level, NTA or within Irish Rail. Iarnród Éireann Strategy 2027 makes no commitments to improve regional rural services, except in the major cities.
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