Bob Dylan asks, ‘Ever done the opposite of what the experts say?’ in Tell Me. He goes on to ask, ‘Is there some kind of game you’re playing with me?’ The song springs to mind with the news that the Western Rail Corridor has re-opened, partly at least. Limerick to Galway is up and running and it is running so well! Figures supplied by Faber Maunsell, the ‘experts’ employed by Iarnród Éireann back in the Celtic Tiger days of consultants and confusion in 2005, make silly reading. The railway company should have insisted on a money-back guarantee! The Ennis station alone is now generating more passengers per day than Faber Maunsell predicted for the entire Galway-Limerick route!
They credited Oranmore station as the busiest! For the record, their estimates have been so well breached on figures over the past few weeks and that does not even include Oranmore because the powers that be still do not have a station there!
The fact of the matter is that the Galway to Limerick re-opened Western Rail Corridor is a success beyond the dreams and imaginings of even West-on-Track supporters, those tireless campaigners for fair rail play for people in this part of the country. Any day now the powers-that-be in Iarnród Éireann will get around to confirming to the general public that they too are amazed at the figures.
They will confirm, with delicate mirror smiles, that the numbers are higher than expected. Hopefully, they will add that they will inject enthusiasm and fervour into the service. It should not be beyond the realms of economics to ensure that staff are available on the train. Nor is it beyond the realms of reality that a sign stating that the service actually exists be placed in Galway station. It is the little things that matter. The big issues – like passenger numbers, are already being resolved. People want this service because it makes sense and it will work.
It was a little disingenuous of the Transport Minister to declare when he opened it that people must use it before phase 2 will be sanctioned. Either the service is good in itself or it is not. If it is, no one needs platitudes. If it is not, then why open it with all the Governmental pomp and ceremony? The second thing is, why make such a statement regarding phase 2 on this project when nothing of that ilk was uttered to the people who elected Noel Dempsey in Meath?
There is also a railway project in Meath. The Navan line has been approved at a cost of €350 million, but not just phase 1, phase 2 has also been approved. The Dublin to Dunboyne phase was approved as was the Navan phase before any passenger paid a cent on the line! The Meath gang was not instructed to support phase 1 before phase 2 would be approved. For the record, the Navan line at €350 million is a little bit costlier than the Western Rail Corridor phase and phase 3 combined of €70 million! Navan will cost 10 times more per mile than the Western Rail Corridor!
The reason is that the Inter-County Rail Committee refused to allow the track to be lifted from Sligo to Limerick over the past 30+ years, so no land acquisition was necessary when it was being re-opened. Members of that Inter-County Rail Committee - the Martin Joe O’Tooles and John Flannerys of the western counties – are owed a serious debt of gratitude for their foresight. All those members of that committee should take great comfort from the fact that the Galway to Limerick line, with two carriages assigned to the trip, has now doubled up to four carriages on some of the trips because of the crowds.
Iarnród Eireann must also be complimented for the project. There are minor teething problems, because people are human! The figures supplied by West-on-Track before the line was re-opened were laughed at by some Iarnród Éireann personnel.
Sure there’s no success like failure! There are many Irish Rail supporters of the project, people who have the good of the west in their hearts and who fight for fair play. There are enough knockers and critics.
The issue now is for the Government to continue the good work that has been started. If the extension to Tuam will be sanctioned later this year, why not do it now? Build on the success that is already emerging. Why delay? Let the Western Rail Corridor be the flagship project of recovery, not just for the west but for the country.
And when Tuam is successful why delay the green light for Claremorris and Sligo? The next line from Bob Dylan is ‘Am I imagining something that never can be?’ Tell me!