RAIL activists have condemned a Prime Time programme on the Western Rail Corridor as a “hatchet job” by Dublin metropolitan interests set against any further investment in the line.
West on Track said that by taking the Ennis to Athenry section of the line in isolation, RTE had failed to provide an accurate reflection of the numbers using the service between Limerick and Galway.
When former minister Noel Dempsey launched the new service at Colbert Station in 2010, he warned that people should use it to ensure its survival.
But in his contribution to the Prime Time programme, economist Colm McCarthy said that with an average of eight passengers travelling between Ennis and Athenry, each trip was being subsidised to the tune of €85 and it would be cheaper to take a taxi.
Moore McDowell, another member of the so-called Doheny and Nesbitt School of Economics, said there was never a sound business case for the investment and the Fianna Fail government had only funded the project to satisfy the need of people in the west for “toy train sets”.
But West on Track’s Colman Ó Raghallaigh has described such analysis as “seriously flawed”.
“The internationally accepted yardstick for the measurement of the performance of any rail service is the number of passengers who travel on that service at any point along the entire route until it terminates. Therefore, the notion that the Ennis-Athenry section of the railway alone is the yardstick for the performance of the railway is simply daft. Yet, Prime Time insisted on breaking up the WRC into pieces so that by singling out one section, it could claim that the entire WRC was somehow ‘underperforming’,” said Mr Ó Raghallaigh.
Iarnrod Eireann had confirmed that 250,000 passengers had used the Limerick-Galway service in its first 12 months but Prime Time had “failed to refer to this inconvenient piece of good news because it would have meant that Colm McCarthy’s risible statistic about eight people per train would have been shown to be false”. The opening of the station at Oranmore would further boost the overall numbers.
Seats on the Limerick-Galway train, Mr Ó Raghallaigh added, were more expensive than elsewhere and could not be purchased on-line. The modern rolling stock on other intercity services had not been used between the two cities and with speed limits of as low as five miles per hour on some stretches, it would have been faster to travel in the era of steam trains.
None of these issues had been put to Iarnrod Eireann by RTE, Mr Ó Raghallaigh said.