A luxury we could live without, admit passengers
THE 5.05am Limerick to Dublin train was empty as it pulled out of Colbert Station in Limerick city on Monday morning.
This service, though, veers off the main route on to a previously disused track to stop at Castle-connell, Birdhill, Nenagh, Cloughjordan and Roscrea, before rejoining the main line at Ballybrophy.
By the time it reached Ballybrophy, in Co Laois -- two hours and 78km later -- just 11 passengers had boarded.
Earlier, in Limerick, a young couple travelling to Dublin airport decided not to take the 5.05am service after learning that a more direct train, leaving half an hour later, would arrive at Heuston Station first.
The argument for opening this line was that people in these areas could commute to Dublin in time to start work at 9am.
However, when the Irish Independent travelled on the service on Monday and Tuesday this week, only four people were using the service to commute.
At Castleconnell, the only passenger to board on Monday was Joan Hunt, who was using the service for the first time to attend an early-morning Mass in Dublin as part of the Eucharistic Congress.
"There's nothing else that will get me up on time for the first Mass at 9.30am. I could get the bus, but you just don't have the same comfort," she said.
Next stop: Birdhill. The platform was empty. The train moved on to Nenagh, where six people got on.
Among them was PJ Starr, who was travelling to Dun Laoghaire to attend a funeral. Ken Guest, a software designer from Nenagh, who commutes to Dublin twice a week on the service, also boarded.
"If the service wasn't there I would have to drive, which would mean I couldn't work on my laptop," he said as a ticket inspector made her way through the almost empty carriages.
At Roscrea, John Tynan and his wife Elizabeth boarded. "I have a hospital appointment at 9.30am and the bus wouldn't get me up there on time," said Mr Tynan.
Most of the passengers conceded that, while they enjoyed the convenience of the service, they could make alternative arrangements if it did not exist.
At Ballybrophy the train rejoined the main Limerick and Cork line to Dublin. From here on, the volume of passengers increased markedly, and by the time the train reached the commuter-belt towns of Celbridge and Adamstown, it was full.
The following morning there were only four people on the train as it pulled into Ballybrophy.