AN average of only 95 passengers a day used the Limerick to Galway train last year, leading to calls for it to be closed down.
Figures released this week show that in 2011, just 35,000 people used the long-awaited train service.
Only 16% of the available seats on board each train serving this part of the Western Rail Corridor have been taken, figures released by Irish Rail have shown.
The route - opened in 2010 with great fanfare by then Transport Minister Noel Dempsey - cost €106.5m to construct.
Now, a member of that government Willie O’Dea says it is time to look at the future of the six-times-a-day service which also serves Ennis, Gort, Sixmilebridge and Athenry.
The rail line opened following a wide-scale campaign by the West on Track group.
However, because the train cannot exceed a certain speed - and calls at intermediate stops along the way - it has proven quicker to travel by road to Galway.
The train takes two and a quarter hours, while a road trip can take a little over an hour.
Bus travel is also cheaper than train travel, which is thought to have also contributed to the low train ridership.
Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny defended the route, saying that it was still heavily used by commuters on the Limerick to Ennis portion.
“We are experiencing a calamitous recession which has reduced demand on all travel modes and we will continue to promote the service and seek to grow the business,” he said.
But Mr O’Dea said the route has not been properly advertised.
He admitted he was unaware of the service when two weeks ago, when a constituent asked if he was attending the Galway races.
“It did not enter my consciousness,” he said.
He said the low bus fare in comparison to the train also raises questions.
“I think we need to talk to the people behind it to try if it can be made a success. But if it cannot be made a success, we have to seriously look at closing it down because it will be an unviable service. This is a waste of public money which we do not have,” he told the Limerick Leader this Wednesday.
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