Doing things by halves is an Irish tradition. When faced with a problem in many areas our leaders regularly do it. Last week the Government had a Shuffle, not a Reshuffle. This week we have the reopening of the Western Rail Corridor (WRC). Except it isn't; its half of it. Actually, it isn't even that, it's a bit of it. You would tend to forget that the Ennis-Limerick line has been operating splendidly for years, you could be forgiven today in thinking that a new line from Ennis to Galway has been reopened and that 300,000 people will use it every year. Its not quite true, but it looks good, and that is what counts. 200,000 of those people use it every year anyway on the existing Ennis – Limerick line, and have never once moved from Limerick to Galway, so lets hope they do to make up the 100,000 that's being banged about.
Meanwhile, the TD who said we had a shuffle not a reshuffle last week must be concerned that the nearest similar rain line to Limerick - the line from Limerick to Ballybrophy – could be about to close. Well, it needs repair and investment. Funny enough, the repair crews were all moved to the WRC, and with them went the investment. It only connects North Tipperary and Laois to Limerick anyway, and, sure, its only a branch line, so what the heck. Thing is, if properly timetabled the Ballybrophy line has the potential to move a significant percentage of the WRC at a fraction of the price. Nenagh and Roscrea are just as much on the commuter fringe as Sixmilebridge and Craughwell. However, since doing things by half are what we are observing, this is another excellent example of it.
So also the line from Limerick Junction to Rosslare faces the same fate as Ballybrophy. Funny that it actually has the same projected passenger numbers as the WRC but is deemed not financially viable. For passenger numbers to blossom is needs………. A new timetable and investment.
Hold on, there is a pattern emerging here. The old pattern of doing things by half. Here we have two existing lines, both of which could fully compliment the National Development Plan, the National Spatial Strategy, the Smart Economy and any number of other well thought out, logical, correct reports and plans that are given faint praise and ignored. It is well known that on the Ballybrophy line the trains run in the opposite direction at the time the passengers need them to go in their direction. In the case of the Rosslare line they run in the right direction but at a precisely perverse wrong time. In both cases a small change to the timetables and a small investment in the lines could result in a mushroom of passengers, and this is what we want is it not?
The people who live on those lines deserve to know why their services, which can actually outstrip the WRC in terms of passenger numbers if developed properly, are being binned, when at the same time the WRC itself is being strangled at birth. Oh yes, make no mistake about it, despite the press releases, the puffing about the costs and money being spent, the projected passenger numbers, the WRC is set up to fail. That's the funny thing about rail lines. You can run 5 trains a day on it if you want, but if they don't run at a time suitable to the public you may as well close it because no one will use it. But its ok, after all it is starting off with 100,000 users a year after all, so maybe it will do all right.
Meanwhile, the chance to develop the WRC properly has been ignored. There is no reason why there cannot be services from Waterford to Galway at proper times using a regular and frequent services which actually serves the ideal of regional public transport. For some reason the traditional concept of half doing things seems to have been chosen instead. Why this is the case is speculation. Is it a case of having to cut lines to fund the WRC? If so it is a disgrace, all regional lines should be invested in and treated equally, not be opened and closed according to political whims and dictact.
If only IE had enough locomotives and carriages to actually run those services. Actually, since you are reading the RUI blog, you probably already know they do. The Mk3 fleet and the 22000 fleet combined would sort this problem virtually overnight. Instead, the Mk3's are cluttering up storage space all round the country and the 22000 fleet is being used as a square peg being rammed furiously into a round hole by a blind man.
So here is the choice: Actually having the two hourly services off-peak and hourly on-peak on each line that the 22000 fleet was supposedly bought to provide along with hourly services to Cork and Belfast from Dublin all day with connections at Limerick Junction and Mallow to allow proper integration or closing lines to reopen ones foisted under political pressure and operated with a timetable and trains that reeks of contempt, begrudgery, resentment and insolence from the operator.
But when you do things by halves this is what you end up with, isn't it?