September 3rd 2010
Waterford - Rosslare Line To Close
Rail Users Ireland regrets the decision of the National Transport Authority to authorise Irish Rail to close the South Wexford rail line.
Unlike Irish Rail, the National Transport Authority listened to all stakeholders and accepted submissions. Irish Rail only belatedly provided the National Transport Authority with its business justification to close the line in July, having made the formal request to close the line in March, highlighting Irish Rail's expectation of a swift, "no questions asked" closure. This business case, seen by Rail Users Ireland, is poorly presented and contradictory in many respects. The passenger survey within was highly selective as it concerned only 3 of the 12 trains timetable in a week, and surveyed none of the evening trains from Waterford to Rosslare which are significantly busier than the morning services. It must be recorded that standing room only was available on some trains last week as students descended on WIT to register.
Rail Users Ireland acknowledges and thanks the South Eastern Regional Authority who funded a comprehensive study into the line which strongly supported the retention and expansion of services between Waterford, Rosslare and Wexford. This report highlighted deficiencies in Irish Rail's management of the line together with a failure within Irish Rail to actually understand the market which the line served.
The bus replacement service provided by Bus Éireann will take significantly longer than the train and will not serve all stations on the route such as Ballycullane. Further, Bus Éireann has proposed to withdraw certain local bus services in South Wexford in order to provide the buses and staff required to provide the rail replacement service. This is unacceptable.
While Irish Rail has shown little interest in the Waterford Rosslare, at least 3 private rail companies have expressed an interest to operate the line as a going concern in some form. In all cases an increased frequency is proposed. Rail Users Ireland and the Save the Rail Group in Wexford have already met with one rail company interested in taking over the running of the Waterford - Rosslare line and looks forward to meeting with other interested parties in the weeks ahead.
As several companies have expressed an interest in operating the route. A transparent process to select from these operators is required. Rail Users Ireland now calls on the National Transport Authority to commence a tendering process under the powers granted to it by law to seek a third party to operate rail services between Waterford and Rosslare.
Rail Users Ireland will continue to work with the stakeholders in South Wexford to assist in the formation of a full community railway partnership. Members of the Save to Rail group in Wexford have already met with their opposite numbers in Wales and are seeking EU funding to support the community rail partnership. Rail Users Ireland continues to work with interested parties including the Save the Rail group in Wexford and will provide all assistance in the formation of this partnership. Rail Users Ireland notes the NTA's support for this initiative in its report.
While Irish Rail has now obtained the NTA's approval to change the timetable and therefore withdraw services. However, the complete withdrawal of service requires a further legal step under the 1958 Transport Act. Under section 19 of the 1958 Act, CIÉ on behalf of Irish Rail must give 8 weeks' notice and provide details of alternative bus services to replace the train. While this notice was issued on May 21st, Rail Users Ireland believes that the notice issued by CIÉ is invalid as the notice is incomplete and was imprecise in detail.