Tuesday 17 January 2017

‘This is a lifeline for some people’ – Wheelchair user calls for loss-making railway line to remain open

Published 15/11/2016 | 17:20

Edel Carey describes the route as a
Edel Carey describes the route as a "lifeline" for some people

A wheelchair user is calling on the Government to keep the Limerick-Ballybrophy railway line open.

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Edel Carey (45) from Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, says if the line is closed, many wheelchair users will have no alternative form of transport.

On Tuesday a report revealed that the route is costing the taxpayer €550 per passenger to operate.

The review into rail services, drawn up by the National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann, was today brought to Cabinet by Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Ms Carey says they need to consider the members of the public who rely on the service, like she has been doing for 18 years.

“For a wheelchair user, there isn’t another option. It is the only form of transport accessible for people in Nenagh, Roscrea and other towns in Tipperary. It is kind of cutting people off, and rural Ireland has suffered enough cuts already,” she said.

While Ms Carey accepts that it’s running at a loss, she believes improvements could be made to the service which would make it more profitable.

“They have let the investment fall so far behind, it’s easier to let it go than to rebuild it.

“The train runs to Ballybrophy which is in the middle of nowhere, there isn’t even a shop. If there was a town at the end of the route, such as Port Laoise, it would increase the number of passengers.

“It’s the only way for me to travel independently, whereas I need someone to assist me off the bus,” she added.

The Tipperary woman, who works as a Programme Assistant with the Irish Wheelchair Association, says she would like to see a “breakdown” of the figures presented in the report.

“Rural Ireland is so deprived of transport. I think they are subsidising the lack of investment in the rail service, rather than the lack of passengers.

“I would survive without it, but other people depend on it and I’m just trying to fight the corner for them, because Irish Rail really is fantastic. I hear a lot of complaining, but all my experiences with them have been great,” Ms Carey said.

Meanwhile, Labour TD Alan Kelly says the people who rely on the service should be prioritised over profit-making.

Mr Kelly's constituency, Nenagh, is also on the Limerick-Ballybrophy route.

“Most public transport services are not profitable, the reason they are there in the first place is to facilitate the greater good and members of the public,” he told the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.

“I’ll give you an example that’s not in my constituency, we have a situation in the west of Ireland where a group of local authorities have come together to fund Knock Airport, should Knock Airport be closed?

“Lets be honest about this, there is no point in misleading people, public transport is not profitable but it is vital infrastructure.”

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