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.
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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