Updated: 25/11/16 : 05:14:48
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TD attacks media scaremongering over Irish Rail service

A Sligo TD has hit out at media reports on the possible closure of the Sligo - Dublin rail service describing them as 'not acurate' and 'scaremongering'

Deputy Tony McLoughlin says he has discussed the matter of the rail service with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, in light of new scaremongering reports emerging about the Sligo - Dublin service this week.

“We must put an end to the scaremongering in relation to rail closures. Recent reports about the Sligo - Dublin railway closing are simply not accurate and do not reflect the Government's position in relation to rail travel in this country. Upon learning about these false and misleading rumours about the Sligo service, I immediately discussed the matter with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross and he gave me a strong assurance that there is no threat to the Sligo service what-so-ever.

This fact needs to be explained to the people who use this rail service and who are now fearful of its future.

“It is not fair for people to be placed in fear over a particular service when there is no threat to that service. We have seen this type of scaremongering in the past when sensationalist headlines with regard to the future of 'Sligo University Hospital Emergency Services' were published in February, which were since found to be entirely untrue.

“Like many local people, I was concerned to read of a leaked review, which was compiled by civil servants in the National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann. The review reportedly painted a very bleak picture of finances at Iarnród Éireann, where passenger services are running at a loss and the rail network is in need of substantial capital investment. The report suggested that without additional funding, large chunks of the rail network will have to close, which would see no train service into the West except for the train to Limerick.

"I must put this issue to bed once and for all, and I plan to follow up on my discussion with Minister Ross, by tabling a debate on the matter in the Dáil as soon as possible. I want the security of the future of the Sligo - Dublin rail service put on the Dáil record and I want the people in the North West region to know that there is no political appetite from any politician or party in Dáil Éireann to close this service to the people of the North West.   

“This Fine Gael led Government has strong ambitions in relation to rural development and investment. Employment figures show that jobs are increasing across all regions and in order to continue this positive trend, we must maintain and improve our public transport services to the regions, concluded the Sligo based TD”


Meanwhile the Irish Independent reports today that a Sligo boy has penned a note to Iarnród Éireann urging the company to continue running the Sligo to Dublin service, which is regularly used by his sick mum.   

Darragh Walsh (6) from Sligo was upset to read about the potential closure of the route in the Sligo Champion, as his mother regularly uses the service to travel to the capital.

Darragh wrote, “To Irish Rail, I seen on the Sligo Champion that you are closing the Dublin-to-Sligo train,” Darragh wrote in the letter shared by a family member on Twitter.

“Please don’t, because my mum wants to get to the hospital to see the doctor. Please don’t close the train,” he wrote.

              Darragh's letter to Irish Rail was posted by a family member on Twitter

The letter comes as Irish Rail has warned that it is underfunded and may be forced to close some routes in the near future.

Speaking to the Sligo Champion a spokesperson for Irish Rail said: “Darragh’s letter was a timely reminder that behind discussions, about funding the future of rail transport and infrastructure are very human stories and realities.”

“Lots of people, including Darragh’s mother, rely on our services for essential travel, including hospital appointments.

“It was clear, from Darragh’s letter, that he is caring for, and looking after, his mother while her hospital visits continue,” the spokesperson said.

To thank Darragh for his letter, Irish Rail offered him and his mum a free train journey.

“We’ve made contact and will set up the journey for whenever they choose to travel. We’re grateful Darragh took the time to write his excellent letter,” the spokesperson said.

A national review of rail services found €600m was needed to meet the funding gap over the next five years.

While the Sligo - Dublin line carried in excess of 1.3 million passengers in 2015 the loss to Irish Rail amounted to €19m.

Although this was confirmed as the third busiest link after the Cork and Galway services the taxpayer still had to fork out €20 per passenger, per journey, to maintain the Sligo service.