A CALL for action to address ticket costs for rail commuters in South Kildare was again made this week. Irish Rail customers in the south of the county are paying up to €140 a month more than their counterparts in mid and north Kildare who are in a different ticket zone.
The call for action from Minister for Transport Shane Ross came from Athy councillor Mark Wall who has long been fronting a campaign on this issue which is sure to feature in the forthcoming general election campaign. Cllr Wall is running for the Labour Party in the Kildare South constituency.
Cllr Wall was replying to a letter from Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority (NTA), who was reponding to the Kildare South rail survey. The reply noted that the NTA recently published the outcome of its review of monthly and annual fares for 2019/20, with annual and monthly tickets for Iarnród Éireann commuters ‘virtually unchanged’, while the organisation plans to publish the outcome of its review of all other fares this March.
“Minister Ross must listen to the 7,000 people from south Kildare who have signed our petition for fair rail fares and the hundreds that completed our rail survey,” Cllr Wall stated. “These commuters are finding it difficult to manage train fare costs, commuters are still travelling to Sallins rail station rather than use their local station. (Sallins is in the cheaper zone). For a Minister for Transport to allow this to continue is simply unacceptable on so many fronts. There seems to be still time for the Minister and this current Government to address this issue, they cannot continue to ignore commuters.
Cllr Wall also noted that overcrowding was the second biggest issue raised in the rail survey. The response from the NTA noted that arrangements are in progress to provide further capacity on commuter rail services serving the Dublin region, with an order placed for 41 additional Inter City Rail carriages. These carriages are passenger units only and won’t include driver cars.
The first carriages will be delivered at the end of 2021 and the remainder of the fleet will be delivered over the subsequent nine-month period. The response explained that the implementation of 41 ICR intermediate vehicles will provide ‘sizeable additional capacity’ on the three major commuter routes of Kildare, Maynooth and the Northern Line. It was also noted that the Kildare Line will see increases in capacity in both peak periods, from current capacity levels of 13,385 to 19,165.
According to the Labour councillor, the additional capacity will be welcomed by commuters but the NTA, the Government and Irish Rail can’t wait two years to address overcrowding. He added that they need to look at additional early morning services on the Waterford line and the area of booking seats – which he said continues to cause problems where such seats ‘are not being used to maximum benefit of commuters’.