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It's 'now or never' for Wexford to Waterford rail line

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Peter Branigan of South East on Track

Peter Branigan of South East on Track

Peter Branigan of South East on Track

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The group behind the campaign to reinstate the Rosslare to Waterford rail line believe that, with some relatively minor investment, commuters could travel by rail between Wexford town and Waterford in just 45 minutes.

Presenting their business case report, South East on Track believe that it's 'now or never' for the reintroduction of rail travel between Wexford and Waterford and that should the current line be ripped up to accommodate the Rosslare to Waterford greenway, it would take some €652 million to create a similar rail line at a point in the future, making it extremely likely to happen.

For this reason, they are pushing for the route to be re-instated now. The report estimates that to refurbish the line to carry freight only from Rosslare to Belview would cost in the region of €29m. This rises to €54m to reinstate the current track for passenger services. However, should the Killanne-Killinick (Felthouse Junction) curve be reinstated, the total cost would run to around €89m, but would reduce the journey time to just 45 minutes.

While Iarnród Éireann last week spoke of a desire to expand their rail network, it's unclear whether the Wexford to Waterford line is likely to figure highly in their thinking just yet. Ten years ago when the route closed, dwindling passenger numbers were quoted. However, South East on Track say that's because the service was completely unfit for purpose anyway.

'If Iarnród Éireann said that they were reinstating the same service as what was there before, it wouldn't be much of a cause for celebration,' said spokesperson for the group Peter Branigan. 'That would be one service in the morning and one in the evening. There's no point in giving people something they are not going to use. This needs to be every two hours. For example, if you were using the train to go to Waterford for a hospital appointment, you won't want to wait around all day to get back in the evening.'

Although the numbers may seem significant from a financial end of things, South East on Track rightly point out that it pales in comparison to the billions that has been spent on motorway infrastructure in the model county in recent years.

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With minor alterations, South East on Track say that commuters could travel Wexford to Waterford in 45 minutes

With minor alterations, South East on Track say that commuters could travel Wexford to Waterford in 45 minutes

With minor alterations, South East on Track say that commuters could travel Wexford to Waterford in 45 minutes

'Whether this is realistic or not is down to the support we get,' Peter said. 'The EU is very interested in investing in rail lines at the moment, so I think there would be funding there. There's a real appetite out there at the moment to get people out of their cars and using public transport.'

As with most things, timing is everything, With Rosslare Europort now thriving, the group believe that the potential for freight is huge. Also, momentum is finally building behind the Technological University of the South East (TUSE). Under the group's plan a rail loop would connect Wexford, Waterford and Carlow and open it up completely to students wishing to move between campuses.

Similarly, the group believes that the re-opening of a basic Wexford South station would bring major benefits upon the completion of Trinity Wharf, also opening up rail to workers at the likes of Danone, Glanbia and the Drinagh Business Park.

However, one of the biggest threats to the line is posed by plans for the Rosslare to Waterford greenway.

'We are not anti-greenway at all,' Peter explains. 'We think greenways are great. We just believe that they should exist side by side with rail infrastructure and that a greenway shouldn't be delivered at the expense of the rail line. If we tear up this line, it would cost around €652 million to replace it down the line. That's not likely to happen, so really if it's taken up, it's game over. The last thing we want is to be a few years down the line where TUSE opens, Trinity Wharf opens, more tourists are coming off the boat in Rosslare and we're left thinking "wouldn't it be great to have a rail track connecting it all".'

South East on Track's campaign is gathering momentum and they've already spoken with quite a few councillors and TDs on the subject. In particular the campaign seems to have received significant interest in Waterford, with Waterford City & County Council now having written to the Minister for Transport to urge that Rosslare-Waterford be included in the planned review of rail infrastructure he recently announced. They are also seeking the support of Wexford and Kilkenny county councils on the issue.

However, the main aim of South East on Track is to prevent any rash decisions in relation to the line and allow time for a wider discussion over connectivity and public transport in the south east.


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