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Unread 02-01-2012, 09:28   #1
Mark Gleeson
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Default [article] Iarnród Éireann may close rail service amid falling demand

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Originally Posted by Irish Examiner
Iarnród Éireann may close rail service amid falling demand
By Seán McCárthaigh
MONDAY, JANUARY 02, 2012
IARNRÓD Éireann is expected to seek permission to close all rail services between Limerick and Ballybrophy in the near future because of falling passengers numbers on the route.

The line, which includes a commuter Limerick-Nenagh service, is widely seen as the least-used in the rail network. Passenger numbers using rail services between Ballybrophy and Limerick are believed to have fallen further following the opening of the full stretch of the M7 motorway between Dublin and Limerick — a development which has made commuting times between the two destinations quicker by car in most instances.

According to Iarnród Éireann, a total of 14,000 people travelled on the line between January 1 and September 11 last year — a daily average of just 55 passengers.

Under existing rules, Iarnród Éireann requires the approval of the National Transport Authority (NTA) for the closure of any services. Although the NTA has not received any proposal to date from Iarnród Éireann to close the Limerick-Ballybrophy route, the Irish Examiner understands the company, in the past year notified Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, that it is considering the closure of some lightly used rail lines.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar, said he was aware that Iarnród Éireann was looking at its business in the context of constrained finances and the need to generate further efficiencies. He has asked the company to draft a plan on how to achieve greater savings.

"He has made it quite clear that Iarnród Éireann must drive cost efficiencies as a priority before considering any change in the level of services or changes to the fare structure." The spokesperson added Iarnród Éireann had not yet submitted such a plan.
http://www.examiner.ie/ireland/iarnr...nd-178779.html
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Unread 02-01-2012, 10:31   #2
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Not surprised really. I don't know where this 55 figure daily came from. I see these train nearly everyday boarding at Colbert and its more like 5 people. Clonmel might be at risk too. Tomorrow there will be €5 return fares to Limerick. To be fair to Iarnród Éireann they did give a lot of incentives to this line and competing with hourly bus services aint easy but the line should be handed over to some other provider even as a heritage railway.
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Unread 02-01-2012, 11:34   #3
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The line is to be closed due to falling numbers !

This line is a microcosm of the railway generally. Large amounts of money spent on track and other upgrades - little of any great consequence delivered.

Was there ever an intention to provide a viable service on the Limerick to Ballybrophy line ?

Any chance IR are playing politics on this one ?
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Unread 02-01-2012, 18:37   #4
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Last post encapsulates very valid and questionable issues, particularly of spending vast sums of money and whether there was ever a genuine intent to develop the line.

If it is the case there are very well paid people within IÉ and they are not pushing to develop the railway to its full potential is it because of orders/understandings from a higher level or is it because they just don't care/don't have the requisite skills/have no confidence in their industry? Or is it purely money? Are the company giving up too easily and giving-in to "constraints"?

If it was a private undertaking it would be nobody's business (so to speak) but it's taxpayer's money and we're all paying through the nose so, without pointing fingers, it's reasonable to pose these and other questions and that they be debated constructively. Clearly there are some people both within and outside the company who have tried their best to develop the line.

If the proposal to cease the service is submitted, the 1958 notice probably can be expected Feb/March with final service April/May (if cessation approved by NTA).
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Unread 02-01-2012, 19:05   #5
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Being fair the Nenagh line would have been first the close if there was a consistent scientific approach. Average load on the Waterford Rosslare was 30-40 per train. My last journey on Nenagh branch had a total of 5 onboard (for comparison my last journey Waterford Rosslare before the closure news broke was 32)

The NTA will authorise the close as they have laid down a marker and Nenagh will score much lower for retention than Waterford Rosslare

In expenditure terms the money spent on Nenagh is relatively small in comparison, about 300k a km, about 10-12 million in total. There was no crazy expenditure but the bare minimum to replace what needed to be replaced. Track Nenagh Ballybrophy is barely serviceable for passenger use
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Unread 02-01-2012, 19:45   #6
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Nobody wants to see the Nenagh line close but all the money they have pumped into this line so far has gone into a big black hole. Slight improvements of speeds in parts according to one my mates who uses this line, but with falling passenger numbers and the high costs of maintenance/upgrading its just like burning money in the stove, money that could have gone on other lines like the Limerick Junction-Waterford line which had more than double the amount of customers and could attract a lot more commuters from Templemore/Thurles if fares were reduced and they added more trains. .

It’s said that the train on this line sometimes turns back at Birdhill because no other passengers are on the train going to Nenagh apparently.

Although he will be returned to the Dail, I can't see Alan Kelly doing as well as he did last year in the poles in 2014 for this.

I would love to know what he is thinking about sitting at his desk in the Department of Transport and if any arguments have happened between him and Leo Varadkar over this.
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Unread 02-01-2012, 20:29   #7
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If there is no service on a line its never going to attract passengers. If this line is allowed to close,IE should be forced to redeploy its trainset and crew to
limerick jctn- Waterford in order to run a viable level of service on that line
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Unread 02-01-2012, 20:57   #8
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The burning money in the stove is a good analogy and what many people find annoying about this. Even if not all that much money was spent in relative terms it's still wasted money.

What is the situation regarding the track relaid between Nenagh and Killonan Jct? Is it fully "tamped" / "stressed" to permit optimal line speed throughout all such relaid stretches? (am not familiar with precise railway jargon). If not, why on earth not? Again the principle of getting the best out of what is in situ applies.

Pity this ending of service looks set to happen, with the likes of well-cared for stations such as Birdhill (celebrated its 150th in 2010), community interest and the Railway Garden there.

Is leaving Nenagh - Killonan operational in a commuter/Limerick outer-suburban context and mothballing Nenagh - Ballybrophy an option? In such a scenario and perhaps a few additional services is there any way the maths can possibly remotely balance up if factored over a number of years? (Would be interesting to have an independent assessment of this).

If one or two of the Portlaoise-Dublin early-morning services could start at Roscrea (ditto for an evening return) it could be a winner though it would have to be a commuter railcar rather than an ICR to minimise wear and tear on the line. The layout at Ballybrophy also conspires against such a service.

(Realise the items in last two paragraphs are highly unlikely).
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Unread 03-01-2012, 10:09   #9
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Listen on Tippfm.com right now a Nenagh Rail Partnership member giving out live on radio.
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Unread 03-01-2012, 10:32   #10
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Only took them 5 years to actively lay into Irish Rail for not doing anything.

Crew in Wexford got an extra train, improved ferry connections and Sail Rail posters countrywide in less than a year by being vocal and complaining.
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Unread 03-01-2012, 10:40   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Gleeson View Post
Only took them 5 years to actively lay into Irish Rail for not doing anything.

Crew in Wexford got an extra train, improved ferry connections and Sail Rail posters countrywide in less than a year by being vocal and complaining.
I agree. They had since 2007 to increase passenger numbers and they didn't. I would hate to see it close but the ball was in Nenagh's court.
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Unread 04-01-2012, 05:58   #12
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Would the lack of Nenagh service allow for any low-cost improvements to the Limerick Junction or Ennis service as it stands with track capacity/signals, or should we simply assume those services will disappear and nothing else will change?
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Unread 04-01-2012, 07:43   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dowlingm View Post
Would the lack of Nenagh service allow for any low-cost improvements to the Limerick Junction or Ennis service as it stands with track capacity/signals, or should we simply assume those services will disappear and nothing else will change?
Limerick-Killonan is double track, so it won't make much difference.

It frees up 1-2 carriages and a few platform slots in Limerick, but I don't think Colbert is under pressure platform-wise - I think its three long and one short platform
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Last edited by Colm Moore : 04-01-2012 at 07:56.
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Unread 05-01-2012, 09:29   #14
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Everybody in Nenagh I talked too said they would love to see a heritage line. Would this actually be possible? I imagine with closure it would still cost Iarnród Éireann money to maintain the track. Aren't they required to keep the line serviceable these days in case they want to resume services in the future? Would it be more viable to hand the line over to Shannon Heritage or some other state board or to a charity like on the old Dungarvan line.

Would the staff based along that line too be laid off or redeployed to other parts?
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Unread 05-01-2012, 10:14   #15
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The whole heritage joke keeps coming up.

Not chance really as the junction with the branch is 4 miles out of Limerick, don't see Irish Rail sharing and no doubt they will quite rightly ban wooden bodied coaches off the entire network soon which blocks that.

No facilities either on the branch, no shed or otherwise

Track Nenagh Ballybrophy is in such bad condition doubt it will last much longer regardless of what the NTA will say.

All local staff will be given redundancy or redeployment if available. There really is no net saving as the NTA will cut the subsidy and all Irish Rail save is a possible long term liability.
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Unread 05-01-2012, 12:42   #16
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From Tipperary Star
Quote:
OVER 140 children and adults took part in this year’s annual Nenagh Rail Partnership trip to Limerick On Ice.
This is the eight year of the event run by the partnership, whose aim is to get more people using the local rail service.
“We have always had consistently high numbers for this trip. It’s a great opportunity for families and friends to have a day out after Christmas and before going back to school following the Christmas holidays,” said Nenagh Rail Partnership chair, Nenagh Mayor Cllr Virginia O’Dowd.
“Right from the firt trip, Limerick On Ice and Iarnrod Eireann have been very supportive of us, giving us discounts on both the admission price to Limerick On Ice and on the rail fare.
“The partnership really appreciates their help and support,” she said.
The Mayor said that trips such as this week’s event showed how the line could be used and developed and urged local groups to think of ways of organizing trips along the line.
Nenagh Rail Partnership has used the service for trips to Cloughjordan and Castleconnell for days out, and Mayor O’Dowd pointed to how sucessful this year’s special train to Croke Park for the All-Ireland as an example of how business along the line could be developed.
She also urged people working in Limerick to consider using the train, but pointed out that it was not just there for commuter use to and from Limerick or Dublin.
“People visiting the Eco-village in Cloughjordan are encouraged to come by train. It could be used as part of a school trip or by Active Retirement groups. The problem is that if we don’t use it there is a danger we will lose it, and once it is gone it will be very hard to get it back, especially in the current economic crisis,” she said.
How will excursion at €5 fares save the line?

Quote:
Published on Wednesday 4 January 2012 10:54
Nenagh Rail Partnership has defended the local rail line that serves Ballybrophy and Limerick amid reports that Iarnrod Eireann is to close the line this year because of lack of use.
The closure is thought to be on the cards because Iarnrod Eireann is reported to be looking at its lightly used lines due to budgetary constraints, with its allocation expected to be cut by the Government by up to E21m to E242m.
However, it has yet to seek approval to close the line.
Duncan Martin, PRO, of Nenagh Rail Partnership, told the Tipperary Star this week: “The threat to close the line has popped up regularly over the the years.
“There is no doubt some people in senior management in Iarnrod Eireann would like to close it. As a result they have neglected the line for decades and totally failed to promote it, while allowing services to gradually decline.
“Falling passengers numbers are no surprise under such management. What is needed is a radical shake-up in its approach to the line, with a dedicated management in charge focused on building passenger numbers rather than driving them down."

Last edited by Destructix : 05-01-2012 at 12:51.
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Unread 08-01-2012, 06:16   #17
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I think the ideal would be to Ennis-ise the line, by which I mean divide the line into two with the Killonan-Nenagh stretch which has had substantial spending on it finished off - track stressing, LC automation and a single railcar shuttling up and back or running through from Ennis on a 2-hourly timetable with journey time more like 40mins than the current 55.

It seems to me that the money to bring the track north of Nenagh to mainline standard isn't there, but a heritage operation along the lines of the York-Durham Heritage Railway could keep things going on an engineers siding basis between Nenagh and Roscrea to keep the line in good nick at volunteer/sponsor expense - those are decent sized towns which could draw on a deeper pool of support than the villages along the South Wexford line. Perhaps in the future a properly run shuttle would draw enough business to contemplete restoring the shuttle to Roscrea or further without yanking trees out of the alignment as in the case of Midleton.
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Unread 08-01-2012, 09:59   #18
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It really has to be a voluntary effort now. Its not viable to spend the required €25million to upgrade the line between Nenagh and Ballybrophy when some days the trains are empty at Castleconnell, Birdhill and speeds will still fall behind that of other lines and bus routes. Virginia O'Dowd wants direct Dublin-Limerick services but the times would only spook people but then if the service is kept local it will get no passengers. Though from the response of Alan Kelly in the last few days here it sounds like he is going to try be a hero and waste more money on this line.

Quote:
The line runs through the constituency of the Labour Party Minister Alan Kelly who told The Guardian on Tuesday that he was hoping to sit down with the rail company to look at options of improving services on the line. He said the line needed substantial investment as well as better marketing of the service and higher train speeds. Nothing had been received by his department proposing closure. The minister said his own efforts to improve services on the line where signalled last year when he announced funding for improvements in four railway stations on the line in North Tipperary.
Iarnród Éireann has marketed the line enough even offering cheap as chips fares. It was down to local people to use the service. Even with massive investment how can a small train service compete with a motorway running beside it and Bus Éireann route 12. Look at the times

Nenagh-Dublin 2hrs 22mins avg,
versus
Nenagh-Busaras, 2 hrs 30mins but hourly service
Nenagh-Dublin by Car on M7 1hrs 34mins
Thurles-Heuston 1hr 25mins avg hourly service
Thurles-Busaras by bus via Horse and Jockey 2hrs 35 mins (includes the 20 min break at Urlingford, which the latest on is that its going to abolished reducing it to just under 2hrs 10 minutes)

As for direct Limerick services
Limerick-Heuston Via Ballybrophy 3hrs 10mins avg
Limerick-Heuston Via mainline including change at the junction 2hrs 28mins avg
Limerick-Busaras by bus 3hrs.
Limerick-Dublin by bus JJ Kavanagh 3hrs 5 minutes but hourly
Limerick-Dublin by car M7 2hrs

Even with the estimated €25 million upgrade needed on the line it will still have really poor times.
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Unread 08-01-2012, 12:27   #19
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The line will close, there really is no other option that could happen. To expect anything else is to delude oneself. There are no magic tricks to stop it, we have tried them all before in Wexford and then didn't work and Irish Rail are not going to make the same mistake again.

The minister is going to find himself in serious trouble, as he will be the last person to know as to close the line Irish Rail apply to the Minister for Transport aka Leo, not him. Even at Minister level provided Irish Rail can prove the line is uneconomic and that there is no reasonable chance to recover from that, the line closes there is no avenue to block the closure. I've spoken with a lot of people in Irish transport in recent weeks and not one has anything to say about Alan Kelly bar his like for photographs. He hasn't delivered anything and he is refusing to meet with key stakeholders, ourselves included.

The argument always falls to, if Irish Rail could do better...

Compared to Waterford Rosslare the service Nenagh has is amazing, morning/evening commuter link to both Dublin and Limerick and a service on a Sunday! They could do better again but really its miles from the one train each way lark which connected to nothing in Wexford.

As the same criteria will be used as with the closure of Waterford Rosslare, which was running a smaller loss, higher load factor and offered an incredible time advantage vs road there really is no chance the NTA will block a closure

Money wise in the case of Nenagh there is a slightly greater benefit to closing the line than in Wexford. Irish Rail will lose its subsidy for the route, that will be handed back to the NTA and since Bus Eireann already provide a service the subsidy goes back to the pool and is divided up proportionally to all operators. There really is no impact on the balance sheet except the long term 25 million upgrade liability is removed.
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Unread 08-01-2012, 14:10   #20
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The major difference Rosslare had to Nenagh was it had potential just like Clonmel does and should never have closed, at least not before Nenagh anyway. Was some talk on here few months back about private operators hoping the NTA would allow them to take over the Rosslare line. Any progress made on that? It seems to work in England franchising the lines.
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