Iarnród Éireann may close rail service amid falling demand

IARNRÓD Éireann is expected to seek permission to close all rail services between Limerick and Ballybrophy in the near future because of falling passengers numbers on the route.

The line, which includes a commuter Limerick-Nenagh service, is widely seen as the least-used in the rail network. Passenger numbers using rail services between Ballybrophy and Limerick are believed to have fallen further following the opening of the full stretch of the M7 motorway between Dublin and Limerick — a development which has made commuting times between the two destinations quicker by car in most instances.

According to Iarnród Éireann, a total of 14,000 people travelled on the line between January 1 and September 11 last year — a daily average of just 55 passengers.

Under existing rules, Iarnród Éireann requires the approval of the National Transport Authority (NTA) for the closure of any services. Although the NTA has not received any proposal to date from Iarnród Éireann to close the Limerick-Ballybrophy route, the Irish Examiner understands the company, in the past year notified Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, that it is considering the closure of some lightly used rail lines.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar, said he was aware that Iarnród Éireann was looking at its business in the context of constrained finances and the need to generate further efficiencies. He has asked the company to draft a plan on how to achieve greater savings.

“He has made it quite clear that Iarnród Éireann must drive cost efficiencies as a priority before considering any change in the level of services or changes to the fare structure.” The spokesperson added Iarnród Éireann had not yet submitted such a plan.

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