THE WESTERN Corridor railway line, which links Limerick to Galway, has come under more pressure as it has been considered inadequate for daily commuters.
Despite a 7% increase in passenger numbers from Limerick to Galway, lobby group West On Track and Limerick Chamber of Commerce have criticised the railway service for not operating properly and being inefficient for commuters.
Spokesperson for West On Track, Colmán Ó’Raghaillagh said the Western Rail Corridor review, which was published for the National Transport Authority, outlined a number of serious problems that had yet to be tackled.
While the report states that other modes of transport are reasonably integrated with the railway service, Mr Ó’Raghaillagh said the workings of buses should be more “synchronised” with the railway line.
“We should also have proper inter-city trains, and a lot of people won’t find it attractive by travelling in older trains,” he added.
He said the measurement in the increase of passengers is flawed because of the “scrutiny that the rail line is being subjected to”.
“The measurement of this increase has always been problematic. If you get on the train, on the Limerick-Galway line, and get out at Ennis, they won’t count your seat. Likewise, if I get on in Galway and I get out at Athenry, I am also not counted,” he explained.
According to business development manager of Irish Rail, Limerick, Jim Gallivan, “The journey time is longer on the train service but the distance is also slightly longer as going to Galway via Athenry adds about 20km to the distance.”
Similarly, the report states that traveling via the railway line is 29 minutes longer than traveling by road.
However, Mr Ó’Raghallaigh said that driving by car is not as efficient as the report outlines.
“Car journeys do not make the journey as fast as they think. You could end up in a traffic jam along the way, whereas if you take a train, you will end up right in Eyre Square.”
Mr Ó’Raghaillagh said that there were major points ignored in the report by the public, such as the route’s opportunities to enhance tourism, where an interchange of other public transport could be used to take passengers to Cliffs of Moher, Lahinch and many other holiday destinations.
CEO of Limerick Chamber of Commerce, Maria Kelly supported the service’s use for the tourism sector, but said they were more supportive of the road as it was more convenient for business.
“The best way it can be used for is tourism. There is no incentive for commuters especially when it takes longer, though it has been useful for the Limerick to Ennis route. We have a history of public transport not meeting the people’s needs,” the CEO said.
Communications manager for Iarnróid Éireann, Barry Kenny stated: “We will assess the report, in the context of our overall services, and consult with the National Transport Authority and other stakeholders on any future changes.”
Though online booking is being introduced to the route in the near future, the spokesperson for West On Track showed disappointment as it was proposed more than three years ago.
“Online booking is still not available after our proposals. It seems odd that you cannot go online in Limerick and book online to save yourself a tenner,” Mr Ó’Raghaillagh added.
The report said traveling by train was as fast as driving on the road from Limerick to Ennis, and weekly and monthly fares were more cost-efficient than traveling by car on the same route.
However, it stated that the route was not useful for commuters who wished to travel from Limerick earlier than 8am and to travel from Galway to Limerick later than 6.30pm.