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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Transport in the South East

How do you feel public transport serves you in the south east? Train services within the region are poor. If you wish to go from Wexford to surrounding counties train services are limited and bus services are little better. Why is it that private motoring seems to be catered for in our national plans to the detriment of public transport?

What I think is hugely important is that there is a public alternative to private transport, I'm throwing this out to see how you feel about;

(a) Does it matter about public or private ownership of a bus route? I say this in the context of a bus company colapsing in Dublin citing competition from Dublin Bus last month. What about how customers feel?


(b) Should private operators be allowed to utilise a public rail network (I hope this stirs a hornets nest!) My own feeling is look at the mess the UK rail industry is in but should Irish Rail be allowed to dictate the rate of development of our rail network? Is there a role for local authorities?

(c) How do we plan our transport services to actively drive juggernaut traffic off the road and onto rail? Rosslare Europort recently relocated their railway station 200 M away from the passenger terminal so as to facilitate container movement in the port. The picture shows where the track used to go until April 2008. There is no load on load off quayside service there for rail. The result is loads of unnecessary trucks on the N11 & N25.

Your comment please, I'll let the debate roll and add my own comments in time

7 comments:

Brian Cleary said...

In answer to your blog, I must say that it is great to read a member of the Labour Party mentioning the possibility of PPP in the public transport

Firstly on the issue of rail, there needs to be a complete re-think on how the network is laid out and who it is there to serve. Despite the addition of a few additional services to Dublin, Wexford as a whole is woefully underserved by the rail network. What is even more alarming is that Wexford does better than a lot of towns. Issues such as track quality and the age of rolling stock need to be re-evaluated before we can progress. In for people in Wexford or elsewhere to consider relinquishing their cars there needs to be reliable and frequent fast rail services to Dublin, Waterford and Cork from Wexford. Irish Rail have failed miserably at providing a service of any worth outside of the Dublin commuter belt and I believe that there is a need for a public-private partnership to modernise
the fleet and the service. Whilst I am a Labour supporter and have
been all my life (Corish & Howlin style Labour as opposed to DL) I believe that there needs to be a major change in the attitudes of unions to more flexible work practices that would enable more frequent services. The manner in which they have held those on the Dublin 96 Cork line to ransom in the past has been sickening and perhaps a private investor (such as Altran) would shake things up a bit. After all, as much as everybody decries Ryanair’s non union stance it doesn’t stop people from using it. The Ryanair example is extreme, but it is obvious to all but those in Irish Rail that it hasn’t worked and outside help is needed, from the private sector, either in the form of brain power or financial clout to make the network work.

On the issue of taking juggernaut traffic off the roads, it isn’t going to happen in our lifetime, although I hope I am wrong. To do this we need a better developed rail network 96 properly developed in a wheels and spoke system with central hubs and numerous drop off points (on the spokes of the system). The British system, our nearest point of comparison has undergone seismic changes. Even in 1961, at a time when it was a nationalised asset it employed 475,000 people, had 7,000 stations and operated over a million freight carriages. Even with such critical mass available to it, it did not work. Dr. Richard Beeching was brought in to make it more effective and he closed over 2000 stations and streamlined staff and still it didn't work.


It left Thatcher with no option but to let it sink or swim and it was privatised. Irrespective of complaints that arise from time to time, the general network rail system in place now in Britain is far more attuned to the needs of both foot and freight passengers and has a system that we should be envious of. Such a system in Ireland would require a complete re-think on how work has been done to date, a radical building programme and an incentive for juggernauts to be taken off the road. The financial implications are huge and it is the greatest pity that in the boom times that we as second wealthiest nation in Western Europe came out of the boom with a nineteenth century rail network and bad hospitals, wealth was squandered and the areas of most need were left to rot.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

Hello Brian, Glad to get your views. There's quite...
Hello Brian,
Glad to get your views. There's quite a lot there much of which I can agree with especially your analysis of how we got to where we are, so I'll try to respond. Firstly I don't see what I'm saying is supporting a PPP. In fact I'm on the sceptical wing when it comes to the benefits or otherwise of PPP's. My points are that arising from my dealings with the state transportation company I've concluded that there is nothing particularly statist in their brief. They do not have any greater commitment to communities than any other company, private or state. Management have a policy that if something is profitable they'll do it and if they can access state investment they'll be even more enthusiastic about doing it.

That sounds to me exactly like what Michael O'Leary's approach to developing routes out of Charleroi, Derry, Kerry and why in fact he withdrew flights from Shannon himself in favour of Kerry.

In the case of bus transport Wexford Bus provides public transport in Wexford Town and district. This private company has developed a business that if the town had to wait for Bus Eireann wouldn't exist. I simply believe that there is a place of a service,in the UK & most EU states many local authorities run services in their own cities, I believe that the local authority is in a better position to identify a wider local need than Bus Eireann or Irish Rail.


For example look at New Ross, there still exists a track to the quay. It was last used 13 years ago and it was closed because Irish Rail said it didn't have £250K to re-sleeper the line. All the ore from Lisheen mine in Tipperary is exported by truck through New Ross. Depreciation on the N25 road, time delays through gridlock, and (here's the best one £60K that) Wexford County Council had to fork out for gates on a level crossing that was never used on the N25. All costs carried while there was an alternative of putting a spur line 3 miles from the main Dublin Cork line to the mine, and railing the ore to New Ross.



In the case of the Rosslare Waterford line there has been no promotion of the line despite the obvious saving in time and fares. Lets see how the capital roads projects fare out and whether the Ross bridge proceeds despite the cutbacks. There are 3 bridges across the Barrow from Wexford, 2 are rail (one long closed) and one road, the potential is there to efficiently use the present infrastructure to improve service but not the incentive.



This week's Echo carries a good report by David Looby on how Rosslare Harbour people feel about their new railway station which serves no one. I was down there at Easter. There is no sign on the platform, no shelter, no timetable, no ticket office, no place for cars to pull in, it is awkward for wheelchair users to access across the track and then up a slope, it is bounded by palisade fence and its pedestrian entrance is off a roundabout. At least at the previous station you could go upstairs and get a cuppa while you waited. Poor service no consultation, see picture on left.
Could Irish Rail do better? Yes. Would Wexford County Council provide better if allowed? Definitely

Daragh said...

Joe,

There are two key infrastructure deficits that need to be addressed in Wexford if we are to attract and retain companies like Zurich and Coke.

1) Transport... as a committed long-haul commuter, you know I've got views on this. There needs to be an integrated transport plan for each town in Wexford (extending out to hinterlands as appropriate/possible). This plan won't materialise in the Dept of Transport and I would argue it should be lead by Borough/County Councils. The plan should address issues such as getting people from point X to Wexford station in time for the train or bus at 6am, with regular and reliable services, and indeed lobbying for earlier start times on trains (or faster trains) so the perception that travelling by car is faster can be quashed (it isn't. I've used car, rail and bus to Dublin and bus and rail are faster).
Aligning the whole shebang with the National Spatial Strategy (remember that?) would tie the bow off on that.

2) BROADBAND... for those days when you absolutely have to be in Dublin but absolutely can't be in Dublin... Broadband service in Wexford is largely a joke. 3 trumpet their coverage in Wexford, but a call to their tech support reveals they have 'long running technical issues' in Wexford town. Local providers are worth supporting, but only when they can deliver service... and many of them can't because of 'obstructions' (and don't get me started on customer service issues).

A lot of what I commute to do I could do from home comfortably if i had reliable Broadband. However I don't, so I have to schlep to Dublin every week.

Broadband is about a lot more than youtube and blogging... it enables people to have options about how and where they work, and can support high-value knowledge work in Wexford (with occasional trips on the train to Dublin or Waterford for meetings...)

Joe said...

The town development plan is at present under review. I have raised the need to re-design the rail & Bus station to facilitate an integrated transport system. I'm aware of people from Wexford who commute to Waterford and they drive to Wellington Bridge so as to get parking and then take the train.

I think that the station lay out should be altered to provide extra platforms, parking and a waiting area as well as refreshments for bus and train passengers.
The nature of the line militates against high speeds but the new rolling stock allows faster acceleration and it should be possible to shorten journey times. What bugs me is that you travel at a snails pace from Connolly to Bray. I think and told IE at WBC in 2006 that that should revert to non stop or else start the service from Pearse.
The national spatial strategy is a joke. I moved a motion to ask Bus Eireann 2 months ago to bring a bus on the Carlow Wexford route, Our reply said that I had to show them where the market was for their service. Both are hub towns in the same gateway area, connecting them is supposed to be policy.

Some times I wonder would it not be better to ring up the Norwegian & Danish Embassies, apologise for winning the Battle of Clontarf and ask them would they be good enough to provide us with the nations operator's manual!

Daragh said...

Joe,

I fear that all evidence is that the National Spatial strategy was printed out on soft paper and then hung on a nail in the Dail toilets. I mentioned it just for irony. No subsequent policy from government seems to have lined up with it. (Decentralisation to Wexford was a happy co-incidence).

Personally I'd have no real problem if the train to/from Wexford terminated in Bray and then we transferred to the DART for the rest of the trip. Going non-stop as far as Pearse would also be preferable to the nonsense at the moment, which is basically geared (as I understand it) to the frequency of darts in and out of Connolly.

I agree with a lot of Brian's points. Having travelled by train in the UK and in Portugal, I'm convinced that only truly right-wing governments (Portugal was a facist state until the 1970s) can get trains running well. Mussolini was right. The service aren't perfect, but they are work well. In November I have to go to London for a conference, I'll be taking the ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard and the train from there to London. I'll have a meeting on the train with some colleagues who'll be joining me at Cardiff. All in all a civilised approach.

The big problem with public transport investment in this country is that it is demand driven (if they come we'll build it), while road-build strategy seems to be supply-based (to hell with if they come, let's build it anyway). That needs to be turned on its head so that people have viable alternatives to travelling by car.

As for asking for a reversal on the Battle of Clontarf, we can't as they built a rail depot there.

Finally, with all this talk of Broadband and developing viable public transport infrastructure, are you sure you're not turning Green on us Joe?

THOMAS said...

I agree with the point of the New Ross line, this line is in dire need of investment. A park and ride system would be ideal as there is plenty of space in the Rosbercon/New Ross dockland area for parking.
However isn t Waterford railway station in the wrong place? wouldn t Waterford south be a better option? The infrastructure is still in existence for the main part.
As for freight, Irish rail is losing freight unlike all other European freight operators. It seems that Irish Rail wants to be passenger only so i severly doubt that they would be interested in the stone traffic.
In the ability to carry freight, the only long term freight traction that Irish Rail has is the GM 201 class which would be far to heavy for the New Ross line.
I firmly believe that in the long term the only way to re open the New Ross line is to allow a new train operator into the market.