Loss-making trains axed as just nine people a day use service
EXTRA trains serving Public Transport Minister Alan Kelly's constituency are being removed from service because so few people are using them.
Iarnrod Eireann has spent €187,000 operating three loss-making services on the line. Just nine people a day are using one early-morning direct train to Dublin from Nenagh.
The extra services were introduced last March despite a review that found there was a strong case to close the line because of low passenger numbers.
The company has now announced it plans to cancel the services from next January because they are not being used.
The Irish Independent has previously highlighted the low passenger numbers along a 78km stretch of track between Limerick Junction and Ballybrophy.
The minister has consistently denied having had any direct role in the introduction of the new services, which meant adding additional trains for his north Tipperary base.
However, last March, he said as the "local minister" in the department of transport, "providing this vital service has been a priority for me".
But serious questions remain as to why the new services were given the go-ahead at a time when the state rail company was facing a funding crisis.
Iarnrod Eireann has confirmed the cost of providing the extra services is €1,000 a day – meaning that €187,000 has been spent since last March.
Since then, it has been forced to seek a state bailout, with passengers hit with fare hikes to help make ends meet.
The three services to be scrapped are the 05.05 Limerick to Dublin via Nenagh, the 16.05 Limerick to Ballybrophy via Nenagh and 18.20 Ballybrophy to Limerick via Nenagh.
The Nenagh Rail Partnership criticised the decision, saying the services were "badly advertised and badly promoted" while trains were "invariably late".
However, Iarnrod Eireann rejected the claims, saying that service enjoyed a 92pc punctuality rate, and that it had worked with the Rail Partnership to promote the line.
"The service was introduced to establish if there was a market, but unfortunately the uptake was disappointing," a spokesman said.
The move is part of a wider reform of timetabled services into Dublin's Heuston Station.
The public is being asked to comment on the changes, which are available on www.irishrail.ie by December 13. The changes will have to be approved by the National Transport Authority and will take effect from late January.
Rail Users Ireland, which represents commuters, said the changes were a "lot better".
A spokesman for Mr Kelly said the service was introduced on a trial basis, and it was "perfectly appropriate" that the services were cancelled if they were not "sufficiently used".
"I would, however, point out that the Limerick-Dublin train service referred to serves five counties, not just the minister's constituency," he added.