REPORTS that Irish Rail has notified the Department of Transport of its intention to end services on the Limerick-Ballybrophy line have been described as wide of the mark by local minister Alan Kelly.
Deputy Kelly said that as TD for Tipperary North and Minister of State for Public Transport, he would have been made aware of any proposal to close the line - which includes the daily commuter service between Limerick and Nenagh with stops at Birdhill and Castleconnell.
“I can confirm to you that the Department of Transport has received no such notificiation,” Deputy Kelly said, adding that his focus in 2012 was on developing the service through faster speeds, better timetabling and more services to Dublin through Ballybrophy.
In order to end services, Irish Rail needs approval from the National Transport Authority and this body last year rubberstamped a decision to end services from Waterford to Rosslare. This week’s reports suggest Limerick to Ballybrophy could be next in line. Figures published in the Irish Examiner showed an average of only 55 passengers a day used the service between January and September last. Improvements on the M7 have also shortened the drive between Limerick and Nenagh to a little over half an hour at a time when the rail commute takes almost an hour.
Deputy Kelly said that he was looking at the line but in the context of and getting more to use it.
“My intention is to improve it. We will will be looking at speeds on the line, pricing, timetables, getting more direct services to Dublin and looking at how the services are marketed by Irish Rail,” said Deputy Kelly.
He pointed out that “a lot of money” had been invested in the track in recent years but this was yet to pay a dividend for commuters because engineers had yet to sign off on the increased speed limits these were meant to deliver.
“That’s one of the questions I am trying to have answered myself,” he said.
Deputy Kelly also called for better marketing of the services. Special trains from Nenagh to Dublin for the All-Ireland hurling final in September and to Limerick for people visiting the ice rink last week had sold out at short notice, he said.