Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport Robert Troy TD has called on the Transport Minister Shane Ross to be clear in expressing his support for the nation’s rail infrastructure and to come forward with plans to grow, rather than close services.

Deputy Troy said, “It is beyond belief that the Minister and the National Transport Authority (NTA) is considering the closure of rail lines at a time when the need for public transport services couldn’t be greater. The Government clearly lacks a coherent strategy for developing the rail network. We need a different vision for growing our rail network, one which focuses on making rail travel more attractive and reliable so that passenger numbers can be increased.

“We talk on the one hand about the housing crisis in urban centres, and particularly in Dublin, but then are prepared to contemplate closing public transport infrastructure, which could and should be playing a key role in addressing the housing crisis. The lack of joined up thinking is stunning.

“On key commuter corridors, the existing services are incapable of dealing with additional demand, with the result that many commuters just do not see rail transport as an attractive or reliable service. The level of investment in maintaining our rail lines over the last number of years has been especially inadequate, which has contributed enormously to this problem.

“Today’s announcement of an additional price hike on parking at railways stations is another example of this lack of joined-up thinking when it comes to public transport. If we are serious about attracting more people to commute to work using rail services, why are we discouraging them by hiking up not just fares, but also parking charges at park and ride facilities? I have already pressed the need for rail and bus commuters to be allowed to add the cost of parking to their Tax Saver tickets, but the Government continues to sit on its hands.

“Reliability and frequency of services also needs to be improved through targeted investment in signalling and real time travel information for passengers, because while there are some lines with too few customers, there are others where chronic overcrowding is the issue. A major effort is also needed to improve connectivity between our entire public transport system. Currently it is far too difficult for people to transfer between Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann services due to a lack of integration when it comes to scheduled services.

“Integrating service schedules would be another significant and cost effective step towards making public transport a more reliable and attractive option for the travelling public.

“What we need to see from Shane Ross is a bit of vision and a bit of leadership on our public transport infrastructure. Unfortunately we have seen neither. Instead, we have this report leaked in a highly selective and prejudicial way, creating a sense of inevitable decline. There is nothing inevitable about the future of rail services if we had a Minister who was committed to investing in the future and who understood that simply putting more cars on the road is not a sustainable solution,” concluded Deputy Troy.