Use it or lose it is stark choice facing commuters
FEW things exercise communities so much as the threatened closure of local railway lines. But as Iarnrod Eireann grapples with repeated cuts in funding, it's time for the public to use them or lose them.
Passenger numbers on some routes are appalling, with the numbers boarding in some stations in single digits. The figures aren't enough to sustain a bus service, much less a train.
Moving people on to public transport is a difficult task. Oranmore station in Co Galway is a case in point.
Opened last July, some 60 people a day use it to commute into Galway city.
Oranmore isn't alone. There is real concern about numbers travelling on the Ennis to Athenry service – re-opened in recent years at a cost of €113m, despite the last Government knowing the case didn't stack up.
Limerick Junction to Waterford is also suffering along with Limerick to Ballybrophy via Nenagh where, despite the introduction of extra services last year, there was no noticeable increase.
So what's to be done? Repeated cuts in funding and a lower income stream from fares means there's less money for capital works available, resulting in an older fleet which requires more maintenance and time out of service.
Slower journey times ensue as the track deteriorates and speeds are cut. This means it becomes an even less attractive option.
It's said that only fools and governments invest in railways, but all taxpayers are being made fools of unless we utilise the expensive infrastructure already paid for. Passenger numbers must improve, or lines will be lost and services cut.