Iarnrod Eireann blames councils for hastening closure of railway
A FRESH row broke out yesterday over the closure of a railway line after a report said the decision by Iarnrod Eireann had "serious shortcomings".
The South East Regional Authority (SERA) investigation found fundamental flaws in rail bosses' proposals to scrap the underperforming Rosslare-to-Waterford line.
It claims the service could get back on track through extra stops and a more frequent timetable.
But Iarnrod Eireann has in turn blamed local authorities for hastening the closure of the railway line because of poor planning decisions.
A spokesman claimed that if county councils had insisted that new housing developments be built close to the line, it could have attracted more customers which would have allowed it to remain open.
The new report yesterday said the line could be kept open and passenger numbers increased if more services were introduced, and local authorities and community groups worked to promote the service.
Last month Iarnrod Eireann announced that services would be suspended because of poor passenger numbers.
There is only one train from Rosslare to Waterford in the morning and one back in the evening. Just 25 people use the service each day, and the state rail operator said it could not afford to keep it open.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) will decide next month if the line can be closed. Iarnrod Eireann is paid an annual fee by the Government to provide a service, and the NTA must approve its closure.
"We made our submission to the NTA and we feel any objective assessment demonstrates that the line is unsustainable," said Iarnrod Eireann spokesman Barry Kenny.
"We have made assessments in relation to operating additional services, which showed they would generate greater losses. The local authorities did nothing in recent years to make this line sustainable. You could have had focused development around the line to improve its sustainability, but that didn't happen."
The need for the line was stressed in the report commissioned by SERA, which is made up of Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford City, Waterford County, and Wexford councils.
It said a "viable" rail service on the Rosslare-Waterford-Limerick line, and specifically on the Rosslare-Waterford section, would contribute to balanced regional development. It said the region's population was 460,000, and would increase to almost 600,000 by 2022.
"A decision to close passenger services on a rail line linking population centres would seriously be in conflict with the thrust of national and regional policy," it found. "The key question is therefore whether the line is capable of generating enough passenger traffic to make a material contribution to these policy objectives."
It said that Iarnrod Eireann's justification for closing the line had "serious shortcomings" and it would be "unsafe" for the line to close based on the company's views. "Low frequency services, especially with poor interconnections with other services, cannot be expected to attract large numbers of travellers."
It said freight traffic could be increased, and the line developed as a community rail partnership promoted by councils, community and rail user groups and local business.