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Primetime programme ‘a hatchet job’ on WRC

Prime Time programme on WRC described as ‘hatchet job’

Anton McNulty

MEMBERS of the West-on-Track Committee have dismissed last week’s Prime Time programme on the Western Rail Corridor as a ‘hatchet job’ which misrepresented the truth about the project.
The Prime Time programme entitled ‘Ghost Train - The Western Rail Corridor’ was aired last week and highlighted what appeared to be poor passenger numbers using the service between Galway and Limerick. The programme also featured points of view from economists Moore McDowell and Colm McCarthy who dismissed the idea of extending the service to Claremorris and Sligo.
The programme was researched by reporter Donogh Diamond but his reporting of the Western Rail Corridor (WRC) was described as ‘seriously flawed’ by West-on-Track members who have campaigned for the re-opening of the rail service.
Colman Ó Raghallaigh, spokesperson for West-on-Track, said it seemed the motive behind the programme was to prevent any further development of the line to Claremorris. He also took issue with Mr Diamond’s decision to look at the newly-reopened Ennis to Athenry section when the service was from Galway to Limerick.
“The internationally-accepted yardstick for the measurement of the performance of any rail service is the number of passengers who travel on that service at any point along the entire route until it terminates. Therefore the notion that the Ennis-Athenry section of the railway alone is the yardstick for the performance of the railway is simply daft. Yet, Prime Time insisted on breaking up the WRC into pieces so that by singling out one section it could claim that the entire WRC was somehow ‘underperforming’. 
“We are in no doubt that the real motive behind this programme was to prevent any further development of the WRC ie to Tuam and Claremorris. In our view the Department of Transport should seek to get value for money out of the expenditure made in the entire route and ensure that it is run properly,” he said.
The programme also produced figures from Colm McCarthy who illustrated that only eight people travelled on each train which Mr Ó Raghallaigh said was a ‘risible statistic’ and that the figures ‘bandied about on Prime Time were unreliable’.
“Iarnród Éireann issued a statement in June of 2011, one year after the opening of the Galway-Limerick route saying that more than 250,000 passengers had availed of services on the entire Galway-Limerick route in its first year - made up of pre-existing commuter services plus the new WRC trains. Mr Diamond failed to refer to this press release at all because it would have meant that Colm McCarthy’s risible statistic about eight people per train would have been shown to be false,” he said.
Mayo Minister for State at the Department of Transport, Michael Ring also told The Mayo News that the programme appeared to be a ‘hatchet job’ and made a joke of the WRC project. However he said that while he would like to see the project extended to Claremorris, his priority was the upgrade of the N5 to Westport.
“I have been very clear that the N5 is my first priority and will push ahead with getting the N5 upgraded to Westport. I also support the WRC but after the N5,” he said.