Irish Rail came under fire from Mayo county councillors.
Representatives from the transport body appeared before yesterday’s meeting of the local authority.
Overcrowding, staffing and the need for additional services were among the issues raised during a lengthy and at times fiery debate.
The meeting heard that passenger numbers on the Westport to Dublin route have swelled to 580,000. Overcrowding problems on the Mayo to Dublin train line will not be going away anytime soon with Irish Rail informing councillors that it will be at least two years before any additional carriages can be added to Mayo trains. The organisation is aiming to secure 41 additional carriages for its nationwide fleet of trains but it will likely be 2022 before these can come on stream.
Independent councillor Mark Duffy urged Irish Rail to consider incorporating Ballina into the early bird route that currently bypasses the north Mayo town. “Ballina should be a priority for the delivery of an early morning service,” said Cllr Duffy.
He also queried why the Mayo train is frequently only announced 10 minutes ahead of departure at Heuston Station and more often than not the train is docked at the furthest away platforms. He said this is a considerable inconvenience for the elderly and infirm.
“The joke is that you’re halfway home by the time you get on the train,” said the Ballina councillor. “You are halfway to Kildare by the time you get the bloody train!,” added Fianna Fáil’s Damien Ryan.
Councillors expressed their concerns that passengers are often forced to stand due to a lack of available seats on crowded trains. “You’re taking money off people under false pretences,” complained Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne. He claimed lives were being put at risk due to overcrowding issues on the Westport to Dublin train route. “The service you provide is something from the last Millenium,” he added.
Irish Rail admitted that overcrowding has been an issue on the route. They said should additional carriages be secured in 2022 the 7.15am Westport to Dublin route would see the number of carriages increased from five to six with the later service increased from four to six carriages.
Irish Rail also told the meeting that staff numbers at Castlebar train station are likely to be reduced from three to just two.