Rail line closure plans 'flawed'
A new report into the future of the Rosslare-Waterford rail line rubbishes Iarnrod Eireann's case for shutting down the service, campaigners have said.
The South East Regional Authority (SERA) investigation found fundamental flaws in rail bosses' proposals to scrap the line and claims the service could get back on track through extra stops and a more frequent timetable.
The authority also calls for the development of a community rail partnership as operated on a number of UK train services to create a locally focused approach.
Mayor of Wexford Joe Ryan insisted there is still time for Iarnrod Eireann to change its mind. "The timing of this report is significant, coming as it does a month before the National Transport Authority (NTA) must decide on Irish Rail's application," he said.
"I think the report exposes and undermines many of the arguments that have been made in relation to closure. I am calling on Irish Rail to either withdraw their application to close from the NTA and sit down with the community and local authorities in the counties served by the line and see how they can provide a better service, or else provide the line for another operator who will work with the people of the region."
The Rosslare-Waterford section currently operates just one daily passenger service each way, with around 25 passengers daily.
The SERA's submission claims that if Wexford town was integrated into the service and its frequency increased, it would become dramatically more attractive to customers. It also recommends an assessment of the potential for developing freight business along the line.
Mr Ryan said community involvement could be key to the service's future. "It would be up to communities and villages, small local projects and businesses - there's a lot of potential there," he added.
"It is clear that there exists both a market and a demand in the south east for a regional passenger rail service. If it closes it would mean isolation for a lot of people and inconvenience to a lot of workers who commute."
But a spokesman for Iarnrod Eireann insisted the line was not viable. "We've sustained heavy losses with the line for four years, we've tried different service offerings with a very low take-up and it's just not sustainable," he said. "We've objectively looked at other alternatives such as increasing the level of services on the route which showed that it would result in even greater losses. We've put our submission forward to the NTA and we anticipate that they will be making a decision in the very near future."