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Unread 27-01-2013, 01:57   #1
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Default Nenagh loses underused train service

From The Nenagh Guardian

Nenagh loses underused train service
By Simon O’Duffy
Iarnród Éireann has discontinued an early morning train service on the Limerick-Ballybrophy line as part of a new timetable that came into effect last Sunday.
The 05.05 Limerick-Dublin service, which stopped in Nenagh at 06.04, Cloughjordan (06.23) and Roscrea (06.43), has now been axed along with the 16.05 Limerick-Ballybrophy and 18.20 Ballybrophy-Limerick via Nenagh services. The move reduces the number of Nenagh-Dublin train options (via Ballybrophy) back to just two each way per day.
“Use it or lose it” was the mantra from local campaigners when the early morning service was introduced in March 2012. But the service, which along with the other two loss-making routes was costing €1,000 per day to operate, did not attract enough users and so has been withdrawn.
In a statement this week the Nenagh Rail Partnership (NRP) criticised Iarnrón Éireann, which the local group claimed did not make the early morning route attractive to commuters.
The partnership welcomed Iarnrón Éireann’s advertisement of faster train services on the Ballybrophy line, PRO Dr Duncan Martin pointing out that weekday evening passengers from Dublin will arrive 25 minutes earlier than in 2012, whereas weekday morning passengers to Dublin will save eight minutes.
However Dr Martin was disappointed with the loss of the early morning service, which he stressed was not proposed or pressed for by the NRP, which was not even consulted by Iarnród Éireann in its introduction.
“The failure of the commuter service was probably inevitable given the absence of a well-planned campaign to attract new users,” Dr Martin stated.
“Iarnród Éireann launched the service with an over-ambitious timetable (which simply did not work), extra-slow trains (with unnecessary delays of up to half an hour), an unhelpful fare structure, little or no consultation or market research, minimal advertising and none of the bold marketing needed to change habits and challenge misperceptions.”
Dr Martin said the launch week of the service was marred by late running in both directions, and although the departure times were amended to ensure timely arrival, this only made the train even slower.
“The weekday evening trains also suffered from unacceptable delays and late running - every night - due to an unworkable timetable that set impossible targets,” he stated.
“The total delay (scheduled and unscheduled) was usually half an hour or more: as demoralising for staff as it was for passengers. Inevitably, new users soon turned back to their cars.”
Dr Martin criticised Iarnród Éireann for failing to introduce smarter scheduling and fare structures, and said the early morning service was introduced prematurely.
“The partnership’s pressure for highimpact introductory fare offers (e.g. three monthly seasons for the price of one) was ignored. So too was our letter to Iarnród Éireann pointing out that the service would surely fail if it was not commenced in advance of an intensive multi-media publicity campaign. Instead, advertising was minimal, unimaginative, ineffectual - and far too late.
“The result was low passenger numbers from the outset. This soon attracted negative coverage in the media and accelerated the downward spiral to withdrawal of the service.”
Dr Martin said the NRP would nevertheless continue to work with Iarnród Éireann to develop the Ballybrophy line, and he encouraged anyone who would like to support the partnership to email duncanj  .
A spokesperson for Iarnród Éireann said the new timetabling has been introduced to prioritise faster journey times and reduce operating costs while maintaining customer service levels as far as possible.
“The timetable was introduced after a public consultation period and was approved by the National Transport Authority,” the spokesperson said.
“We are in ongoing consultation with Nenagh Rail Partnership and have a cohesive regional marketing plan, aimed at attracting more customers to regional services; however we are ever mindful of costs.
“The Limerick-Ballybrophy line is very lightly used and the early bird service that was introduced did not attract sufficient numbers of customers to make it sustainable.”
Meanwhile at a meeting of North Tipperary Co Council this week, Cllr John Hogan (FF) said the loss of train services locally has left commuters with no alternative transport option other than the road. People can no longer get from Templemore to Dublin on time for work anymore because of the cutbacks on the Dublin-Cork line, he said.
Cllr Hogan also called on Iarnród Éireann to review its fares, describing the €48 Thurles-Dublin return fare as excessive compared to what is charged in other European countries.
“Pensioners are the only people using trains; no one else can afford it,” Cllr Hogan said.
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