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Alan Kelly is properly miffed at suggestions a Tipperary rail line should close

It costs €550 for each passenger on the Ballybrophy line, compared to just 90 cent for each Dart passenger.

Updated 8.20pm

31/08/2016. Pictured is Labour Party Alan Kelly TD Alan Kelly Source: Leah Farrell

LABOUR TD AND former Environment Minister Alan Kelly has hit out at reports surrounding a new National Transport Authority (NTA) publication concerning the economics of Ireland’s rail infrastructure.

The new NTA report compares the amount of public subvention per passenger on different rail lines around the country.

Specifically, it compares the €0.90 spent per passenger on a Dart journey in Dublin with €550 for every person travelling between Ballybrophy, Co Laois, and Limerick.

The report was published this afternoon and brought before the Cabinet this evening.

The Ballybrophy line borders Kelly’s North Tipperary constituency. It connects with Limerick via the Tipperary towns of Roscrea and Nenagh. However, the majority of trains travelling from Dublin operate via Templemore and Limerick Junction en route to Limerick leaving the Ballybrophy line sparsely populated.

Speaking to RTÉ Morning Ireland this morning Kelly denied that there is a need for the Ballybrophy line to be closed.

“I can’t accept the recommendations until I see the report, but I don’t accept the reports today to be honest with you – they are factually highly inaccurate,” he says.

For instance, it’s said that the route began operating in 2012. It’s been in operation for generations.
To say that this route has only been open since 2012 in media reports is factually inaccurate and needs to be corrected.

The Ballybrophy rail line faced similar calls for closure in 2012 but instead a revised timetable was put in place.

Speaking after Minister for Transport Shane Ross brought the report before Cabinet, a government spokesperson stressed that there were no discussions about rail closures and said that there would be full consultation with all stakeholders, including members of the public, before any decisions were made about the future of rail lines.

Ballybrophy_Halt_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1790936 Ballybrophy Station in 2007 Source: Sarah777

‘Outrageous’ suggestion

Alan Kelly suggested this morning that the sparse usage of the line is more a case of a lack of investment than anything else.

“Investment has never gone into the Ballybrophy to Limerick line or the Limerick to Waterford line either. Because both of those haven’t gotten the investment the speed levels of those trains don’t meet the necessary requirements because of the number of level crossings on the line,” he said.

Because of that lack of investment and an agenda to close the lines for a number of years we are left with the scenario we have now.

The Labour TD suggested that “huge investment is going into Nenagh – are we really saying to people that Ireland cannot afford to maintain a railway system that will serve people?”

We were able to maintain these lines during the worst of the recession.

He dismissed the figure of €550 subvention per passenger on the Ballybrophy line as “not comparing apples with apples”.

Irish rail 2 Source: Irish Rail

Click here to view a larger image

If you allow a railway line to deteriorate you’re not going to get people to use it. The investment has to go in. If more money was spent on it more people might use it.
Minister Ross needs to learn a lesson here if he is willing to close nine railway stations across two different lines purely because there hasn’t been any investment there.

Responding to a suggestion from Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy that he had previously “abused his position” as Environment Minister with regard to the rail line, Kelly said “that is absolutely outrageous and factually inaccurate and Deputy Troy might want to reflect on that”.

When asked was it just a coincidence that the line in question goes through his home constituency Kelly replied “absolutely”.

“Timetables change all the time, I’m not sure if you notice this,” he said.

Additional reporting by Christina Finn

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