Western Rail Corridor needs time to develop rather than face cuts

A Galway county councillor has called for a “positive review” of the country’s railway service, in particular the Western Rail Corridor, and not a “knee-jerk reaction”.

This follows reports in the Sunday Independent that officials in the new Transport Minister Paschal Donohue’s department are disappointed with the passenger numbers on the €110 Western Rail Corridor from Galway to Limerick which opened in 2010. It is feared the corridor could be targeted for cuts in services following a review of rail services.

According to the report 31 stations across the country that cater for fewer than 100 passengers a day will also be subject to a full review - one of these stations at possible risk is Attymon in County Galway (Galway to Dublin line ), which is said to cater for just two passengers a day. Internal briefing documents from the Department of Transport also show that the Government needs to spend €60 million more a year simply to maintain the railways, and that it continues to subsidise loss making routes. The review expected to be completed in the next few weeks.

Athenry based Fine Gael councillor Peter Feeney, who was also part of the West On Track campaign to reopen the Western Rail Corridor, told the Advertiser this week that the “rail services should be reviewed”, but with the view of making improvements if needed. He called on department officials not to make hasty decisions.

“Up until springtime this year figures showed there had been a 38 per cent increase in passengers using the Western Rail Corridor. This was at a time when passenger numbers using rail around the country were falling. Since online booking and the availability of special offers the usage has picked up. The Athenry to Galway train is full most of the time - that part of the corridor has shown year-on-year increases in passenger services. There are seven extra services in each direction and it is a commuter service that has been extremely successful. Oranmore wouldn’t have a station if it wasn’t for the Western Rail Corridor project.

“The Western Rail Corridor phase one had issues and some still remain, but it takes time to get these projects going, to build something, and the Western Rail Corridor could be an easy target,” said Cllr Feeney.

Meanwhile, rail services across the country are set to be disrupted by industrial action taken by NBRU and SIPTU over Irish Rail plans to implement cost saving measures, including proposed pay cuts. The strikes are due to begin this weekend on Sunday August 24 and again on Monday August 25, Sunday September 7, Monday September 8, and Sunday September 21.

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