A RURAL community in Kerry is up in arms over plans by Iarnród Éireann to close a level crossing on a roadway leading to 14 homes.
Local families have to travel over the user-operated Stagmount crossing, on the railway line between Killarney and Rathmore, to access their houses.
The crossing is just 30 metres off the N72 Killarney to Mallow road.
The closure of the crossing would mean detours that would add up to 8km to journeys the families regularly make to Rathmore, the residents’ spokesman claimed.
“It’s unbelievable that Iarnród Éireann would think of doing something like this which would cause us such inconvenience,” he said.
“There was a right-of-way on that road long before the railway came into being. We are saying Iarnród Éireann should put an automated level crossing there and allow us continued use of the road.”
Iarnród Éireann representatives have told Killarney area councillors of their plans to close the crossing on safety grounds. They pointed out the crossing was not monitored by the company on a continual basis and its safety depended on public users.
The gates are regularly left open and not operated as they should be, creating an additional hazard, the company said.
Every time a person uses the crossing, five manoeuvres are required, involving the opening and closing of two gates and driving across the railway, taking an average of 2.5 minutes.
There are 18 train movements per day, with a line speed of 110km/h, and up to 34 crossings by locals, according to Iarnród Éireann.
The rail company has ruled out an overbridge, or underbridge, on engineering and cost grounds and said closure of the crossing was the most economical option.
Independent councillor Danny Healy-Rae said he was very disappointed with the proposal, which he described as unfair to local people.
“As far as I can see, the only reason Iarnród Éireann are doing this is on grounds of cost. There are areas with fewer houses which have automated crossings. This crossing was manned up to the 1960s, but CIÉ then abandoned it,” he claimed.
“If the crossing is closed, the people will be put to extra expense and it will take them more time to get onto the main road and to local villages such as Rathmore.” Pupils attending primary and second-level schools, as well as pedestrians, would also be affected, Mr Healy-Rae said.
A public right-of-way has to be extinguished before the crossing can be closed and a three-month public consultation process has now begun.
The issue will then be brought before Killarney area councillors and, ultimately, to a full meeting of Kerry County Council for a decision on whether to accept, or reject, the Iarnród Éireann proposal.
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