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Proposal to end Rosslare-Dublin train ‘short sighted’

Rail users have criticised proposals to end direct rail services between Wexford and Dublin, saying the plans would make the rail system “unusable” for passengers on the route.

Reports suggest the National Transport Authority is examining blueprints for the future of the Rosslare-Dublin Connolly line, which could see northbound users having to change trains at Wicklow town or Greystones and continue their journey to Dublin on the DART service.

This is to allow more trains, according to the NTA, to operate between Rosslare and the two Wicklow stations, but linking in with the DART system when they get to Wicklow or Greystones.

The suggestion has been met with dismay by rail users in Wexford, who say there are no proposals to terminate any other inter-city or commuter services in neighbouring counties to Dublin.

According to the pressure group, South East On Track, which campaigns to improve rail services across the southeast region, the proposal before the NTA will “marginally improve” services for Kilcoole and Wicklow, “while making the service almost unusable for passengers at busier stations further south”.

‘Gobsmacked’

Joe Ryan, acting chair of SEOT, said he was “gobsmacked” by the revelations about the proposals and said they had been met with “derision” in Wexford.

“The suggestion that people should only take the train to Greystones and then should cross a bridge and take the DART which will stop at 19 stations before you get to Connolly Station – this will turn people off public transport.

“I’ve used the train myself an awful lot, I have seen people use it and work on it remotely, there is no online internet available on the DART, to use as a work station, this is going to switch people completely off. You have one bridge at Greystones which passengers, wheelchair-users, mothers with buggies, are all going to have to use to get from a train maybe four carriages long, to join another DART which is then going to sit at the station and wait for the very last person to come across. In the morning-time the train could have something like 200 passengers leaving County Wexford, let alone people who join at Arklow.

Joe Ryan of South East On Track

“I’m absolutely gobsmacked at where this proposal is coming from and I think the NTA should withdraw the proposal and negotiate with people like South East On Track who would tell them about the reality of taking trains in Co Wexford.”

He said Wexford town has had more passenger boardings than Wicklow town in recent years and the four-times daily return service from Rosslare to Dublin has grown in popularity.

The most recent rail users census showed that daily passenger boardings at Wexford town, for example, more than doubled between 2013 and 2022, from 68 to 159.

“The NTA will likely claim that this proposal is the only option to improve services on the Rosslare line,” Mr Ryan said in a statement.

“This is untrue. In the short term, using the third track at Bray station and extending the turnback at Grand Canal Dock could provide passing options to alleviate conflicts between inter-city trains and Darts. In the long term, additional passing locations can be explored and developed.”

He pointed out that the draft report of the All-Island Strategic Rail Review proposed re-opening the Wexford to Waterford railway line, to improve connectivity in the southeast.

“Part of that connectivity is providing direct rail services along the east coast to the capital.”

While welcoming potential additional rail services, SEOT will “campaign vigorously against ending direct Wexford-Dublin trains,” he said.

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Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Fianna Fáil senator Malcolm Byrne said the plan was “short sighted” and that passengers should not be required to change to a different service midway through their journey.

“We are seeing significant increases in the number of rail passengers using the train on the Rosslare line and that’s very evident by the fact that the trains on that line are often overcrowded,” Senator Byrne said.

“The argument I’ve been putting to the NTA is let’s be more imaginative, why just have a single line?

“Why not look at investing and increasing the number of lines along that route in the same way that a lot of the lines that serve the south and west going into Heuston station have been increased,” Senator Byrne said.

He added: “I appreciate a lot of [that line] runs along the coast, but at present, the Government are investing large sums of money to protect the line against marine erosion. Why don’t we look at being imaginative and look at making a double track for as long as possible along the line.”

He said he also believes that by providing motorists in the area with a reliable and regular direct link to Dublin city centre it would encourage them to use train services more often.

Another group advocating on behalf of rail users said they “cannot see any advantage” to the proposal.

Mark Gleeson from Rail Users Ireland said it would be “crazy to force people who are making a three-hour journey to change en route”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, he cited statistics that outlined public transport services lose 15-20% of their passengers when a mid-journey change is implemented.

“That route has struggled for many years. It’s seen some growth recently and we’re going to throw away that growth and make it inconvenient.

“Do you want to change trains in the rain at Wicklow? It’s not going to encourage passengers to use the service,” Mr Gleeson said.

A train travelling through Wexford town

‘No decision has been made to alter services’

Iarnód Éireann said in a statement that delivering additional frequency on the Rosslare-Dublin line “has always been challenging in the context of a high-frequency DART service from Bray to Dublin” and that this challenge will increase with greater frequency on the DART servicing Greystones and the DART+ Coastal South service, which is currently under consideration as part of a Wicklow capacity study.

Modelling for the expanded DART+ service and “to get the absolute maximum capacity” in the greater Dublin area and to facilitate increased services on the Rosslare line, “would include an interchange to connect to DART services” on the Rosslare line, a spokesman said.

However, he said that “no decision has been made to alter services on the Rosslare line,” and the above proposals are modelling, at the moment, which will be part of timetabling decisions after DART+Coastal South is delivered, based on demand.

Bray DART station

Iarnód Éireann’s Corporate Communications Manager Barry Kenny said the DART+ programme is about “increasing the number of trains we can run, the number of people that we can carry right across the network.”

Also speaking on Today with Claire Byrne, Mr Kenny described the proposed interchange in Co Wicklow as “infrastructure modelling” and said no decision had been made.

Mr Kenny also said there would be nothing to prevent Iarnród Éireann from operating a mix of direct and interchange services on the line.

“We have six trains each way a day that go south of Greystones at the moment,” he said.

“If we had fleet and driver availability and were able to add another four each way tomorrow through interchange, I think that would be very much welcomed along the route.”

He said there is a “separate project” looking at expanding Wicklow capacity with planned new battery/electric DART rolling stock to extend the DART network to Wicklow Station.

He said any changes would ultimately be “down to passenger demand”, adding that it would probably be the “back end of this decade” before any decisions are made.

Public consultation on the DART+Coastal South project is due to start this summer.


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