Five train services departing from Westport, with one of these arriving in Dublin before 9am, will come into effect according to Mr Myles McHugh, Service Planning Manager Southern and Western with Iarnród Éireann, who addressed members of Westport Town Council on Monday evening.
The Iarnród Éireann representative returned to Westport on foot of issues which the local councillors wanted clarified since Mr McHugh’s meeting with them in March and subsequent correspondence with the Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann in July as to the provision of extra services including an early bird train and having proper dining facilities on board. Upon his return this week all of these issues were addressed and Mr McHugh was “glad to tell” members that in the planning stages for the 2009 rail timetable two extra services from Westport to Dublin (making it five in total ) will be on offer as will the fulfilment of the commitment given in July that an early bird service will be available. As regards dining facilities on the train Rail Gourmet, who are an outsourced supplier, will operate two trolleys on the busier trains and with the roll-out of new six-car trains in October, which will have facilities for cooked food, overall, Mr McHugh said, there will be an improvement in the service offered.
The town councillors present at the meeting were impressed with the announcements, with Councillor Declan Dever commenting that the “relationship in the past was rocky but it has finally come on track”, however there were still a number of issues that the councillors wanted clarified including: Cllr Peter Flynn commented on the time which it take to get to Dublin and asked if there could be a reduction in the time of the train journey; Cllr Margaret Adams wanted to know if the early bird train would connect in Athlone; Cllr Tereasa McGuire said that the “icing on the cake” would be if there was a guard present on the train to make sure that there was compliance with the reservation of seats.
“Service is the key word” according to Cllr Brendan Mulroy who sought extra trains serving international rugby/soccer matches and the Curragh as well as the promotion of special fares in local media in the county rather than on a national level. Cllr Myles Staunton said that the extra services would be a key ingredient in the promotion of the west as a place to live and work and commented that through the extra services, people would spread out on these trains, which may “inadvertently” resolve the issue of not everyone having a seat, which was a complaint made to Mr McHugh in the past.
In response to the councillors’ comments Mr McHugh hoped that there would be a reduction in the time taken to get to Dublin and hoped through the imaginative 2009 timetable this might be achieved. In relation to the connection of the early bird service in Athlone, Mr McHugh said that it would be “most likely changing in Athlone” with the objective of this train then arriving in Dublin at 8.30am/9am.
Mr McHugh explained that the station in the Curragh is out of service and that extra trains have been provided before for matches but this would be reviewed on an ongoing basis. As regards reserved seating the Iarnród Éireann representative said that in the future the situation will be that everyone will have a reserved seat, with online booking being the future, and customer service personnel will be on board some trains.