Keep non-profit lines on track - Rural rail

LIKE Johnny Cash, most of us have a thing about trains. We like to travel in them, nod off at the clackety-clack, and retain childhood memories of trips to the seaside. The railway is also part of child literature, from The Railway Children to Thomas The Tank Engine.

Keep non-profit lines on track - Rural rail

Our fondness for the railway is being tested by Iarnród Éireann, which has warned it will be forced to shut lines unless an additional €128m a year is provided until 2021.

That is a lot of money and the question has to be asked: Is it worth it? The accountant within us will say ‘No’, but, thankfully, we are not a nation of accountants.

It is hard to combat the argument that it makes no financial sense for the State to continue subsidising each journey on Limerick to Ballybrophy at a cost of €552.

But there are social and environmental reasons to retain those rail lines. Putting money into a modern railway is an investment in the future and not just a nod to nostalgia.

It may also make economic sense as rural Ireland could become an economically powerful region in its own right, according to David Minton, director of Northern & Western Regional Assembly. He sees its huge untapped potential.

Retaining a rail service is more likely to make that happen.

Saving €128m now could prove very shortsighted because the problem with closing a railway line is that, like an item in a department store sale, once it’s gone, it’s gone.

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