Naughten seeks 2 additional morning commuter rail services into Galway

In East Galway, Environment, Families, Infrastructure, Jobs, Local Issues, News, South Roscommon by Denis Naughten



Denis Naughten TD has called for an additional rail service arriving into Galway city before 8am from Athlone, which could then provide an additional rail service from Athenry arriving in before 9am.

Deputy Naughten raised the issue with Minister Eamon Ryan in the Dáil recently when he sought a commitment that some of the 41 new rail carriages being delivered to Irish Rail will be based in Athlone providing a commuter service into Galway city

He pointed out to Minister Ryan that the recent expansion of rail services announced by Irish Rail completely ignored the Galway to Athlone rail line despite Galway city being choked with traffic and the outer ring road in Galway being long-fingered again.

“The announcement by Irish Rail was even more bizarre considering the Government allocated €3 million to provide a passing loop at Oranmore railway station 18 months ago and despite the existing services from Athlone and Ballinasloe,” stated Denis Naughten.

He went on highlight that in the first major rail carriage investment under the Minister’s tenure, Galway city has been ignored with the current services into Galway city being more akin to an Indian rail service than an Irish one because of the overcrowding on it.

Denis Naughten pointed out that Galway and the West of Ireland had to get their fair share of the new rail carriages and if the morning and evening services between Athlone and Galway were improved these carriages could then be used during the day to enhance commuter services into Galway City from Athenry.



Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

  1. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps which he intends to take on foot of the Climate Change Advisory Council-commissioned report from the OECD on reducing Ireland’s transport emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54970/22]

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

The OECD report on reducing Ireland’s transport emissions talks about deep transformation that needs to be reflected in our spatial and transport planning, which we all know needs to be built around real investment in rail. Yet in the first major rail carriage investment under the Minister’s tenure, Galway city has been ignored and Athlone, which is supposed to become a new city with three major rail lines, gets just one morning train to Westport and another one from Tullamore.

Eamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)

It is clear that the scale of the challenge we face in decarbonising transport, as highlighted in this OECD report, will require a transformative level of behavioural and systems change. I was pleased to participate at the Climate Change Advisory Council’s and OECD team’s launch event on 5 October, alongside the new environmental director at the OECD and the chair of the advisory council. My Department engaged collaboratively with the OECD team over the past year in the preparation of its review.

The perspective in this report, that our transport system fosters growing car use and emissions by design, rightly reflects a systemic challenge that will require a systemic response. Our everyday transport and mobility patterns have been deeply embedded through a legacy of our past dispersed and low-density settlement patterns and policies and long-engrained mindsets that have established the primacy of private car usage over accessibility and more sustainable modes of travel. The report’s key findings are clear. The most impactful and transformative measures we need to scale up and accelerate to achieve our highly ambitious emissions targets in transport are increased road space reallocation, the mainstreaming of on-demand shared services and enhanced communication strategies to encourage and support the required behavioural change in how we travel.

All of these measures are reflected in our ambitions as set out in the Government’s national sustainable mobility policy, SMP, and through the work of our SMP leadership group and pathfinder programme, which I launched recently. The wellbeing lens approach that the OECD team has used in the report will be key to ensuring that policies to decarbonise transport are framed in terms of the wider benefits to be achieved in terms of quality of life and health benefits. While electrification of our car fleet will remain an integral part of how we will achieve our 2030 emissions targets, we cannot rely on technology alone. We need to move away from systems and policies that continue to engender car dependency and hinder the possibility of efficiently managing our public space and thereby diminish public wellbeing. We must instead provide quality access through more sustainable and healthy transport modes. The findings and approach set out in the report will greatly inform the direction of travel in the transport chapter of the next climate action plan and the further work in delivering the sustainable mobility action plan.

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

The OECD report says that deep transformation in Ireland means promoting development within our cities. However, this is being ignored west of the Shannon in the expansion of our rail services by Irish Rail. While I welcome the additional morning service to Mayo, why was the Galway to Athlone rail line ignored? This is despite Galway city being choked with traffic and despite the outer ring road in Galway being long-fingered again. This is despite the Government allocating €3 million to provide a passing loop at Oranmore railway station 18 months ago and despite the existing services from Athlone and Ballinasloe into Galway city being more akin to an Indian rail service than an Irish one because of the overcrowding on it.Eamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)

I agree with the Deputy that part of this transformation has to be the development of rail services in our cities of Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick to be counterbalances to the excessive reliance on development on the east coast and in the Dublin region.

It is important that we invest in the rail services of those cities so that they have centres of scale that can be counterweights to the greater Dublin area. I agree with that. That is why, yesterday, Government announced a significant and important decision on the investment of €170 million in Waterford to improve the rail service and put in a new sustainability bridge. That is why we are investing. The first top-line of our Recovery and Resilience Facility funding from the EU went to metropolitan rail services in Cork. That is why we are starting the process of reopening the Shannon Foynes line and committing, in the pathfinder projects, to put in new stations in the likes of Moyross to give communities these new services. I agree with the Deputy that Galway and the west has to be part of that as well. He mentioned the passing loop in Oranmore. There is also potential for further improvements to be made around Céannt Station and for double tracking and improving the overall level of service, particularly from the likes of Athenry or Athlone into Galway, so that people can commute by rail rather than by car, which is the curse of Galway’s transport system at the present time. There is no restriction to the political side—–

The first step that could be taken is to utilise the existing rail network in the west. I want a commitment from the Minister that we get our fair share of the 41 new carriages that are coming on track. I want a commitment from him, in the first instance, that we will get two new rail sets based in Athlone, the city-designate that everybody seems to be forgetting about, including one that shuttles between Galway, Ballinasloe and Athlone, connecting passengers with the Dublin-Mayo rail services, but also providing commuter rail services into Galway city. The second set should be used to shuttle between Mayo and Athlone to connect the Roscommon and Mayo passengers with the Galway-Dublin services. Those two sets alone would dramatically transform rail services throughout the west, connecting counties Mayo, Roscommon, Galway and Westmeath for the first time since the foundation of the State and providing the type of transformation that the OECD is calling for.

Eamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)

I do not disagree with the Deputy. There is huge potential in the services he mentioned. The allocation of those ICR carriages is a matter which Iarnród Éireann is going to have to decide on an operational basis. It is best placed to see where the growth is. What is interesting, and what I hear from the company, is that since we as a Government introduced a 50% reduction in fares for those under 24 and a 20% reduction for all passengers, there has been a massive increase in demand, particularly for the rail services outside the greater Dublin area. I do not disagree that where we provide high-quality public transport services, the people respond by taking them up. Another example that can be referenced is the reopening of rail services to Ennis from Limerick. People said it would never take off, but it has been hugely popular. I do not disagree with the Deputy on the potential for those shuttle services or ICR services from Athlone either up to Westport or down to Galway. That is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann. Those carriages are starting to come in but it takes time before they are fully commissioned. Safety and other technical arrangements need to be made. There is nothing restricting Iarnród Éireann if it sees that as—–

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

If the Minister does not intervene, it is not going to happen. It needs direction.

Eamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)

I am intervening in putting the funding into public transport, reducing fares and in encouraging the development of Cork, Galway, Waterford, Limerick, in particular, as our priorities for investment in transport.

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

All we want is our fair share.