Senator Chambers Calls for Urgent Improvements to Ireland's Rail Links

Published on: 15 May 2024

Midlands Northwest European Election candidate, Fianna Fáil Senator Chambers today issued a national call for comprehensive improvements to Ireland's rail links, specifically targeting the routes between Galway-Dublin, Mayo-Dublin, Roscommon-Dublin, and Sligo-Dublin and also, the commuter counties such as Kildare, Meath, Louth and Westmeath. Emphasising the need for enhanced service frequency, reduced travel times, and overall efficiency, Senator Chambers has called for ambitious upgrades to meet modern demands.

Senator Chambers stated, “Efficient and reliable rail services are essential for our economic growth, environmental sustainability, and social cohesion. It is crucial that we invest in our infrastructure to ensure it meets the needs of our citizens and businesses both now and in the future and re-balance the economy between east and west by allowing businesses to run sub-offices in the west and enable their employees to relocate but also, for those in key commuter areas such as Kildare, Meath, Louth and Westmeath to have a service fit for purpose and be able to travel with reliability to the greater Dublin area for their daily jobs.

At the European level, Senator Chambers proposed that rail services should operate as loss leaders in every European country, including Ireland, to encourage public transport usage similar to recent initiatives taken in Germany to provide free travel on a pilot basis, and that EU Competition rules should be set aside to facilitate this. “Affordable and efficient rail services are a strategic investment in our future. Operating these services as loss leaders will drive a significant shift from private car usage to public transport, helping us meet our sustainability targets and reduce congestion. To achieve this, EU Competition rules need to be adjusted to allow for increased investment at a European level and support in rail infrastructure,” Senator Chambers explained.

Senator Chambers also proposed that Irish Rail be enabled to reduce rail fares by a further 20% through European-funded subsidies in addition to recently announced government reductions on travel to initially fund the incentive for increased usage, providing regular commuters with substantial annual savings and increasing the incentive for others to choose rail services over car travel. “Lowering fares is a critical step towards making rail travel more accessible and appealing. By reducing costs, we can encourage a greater number of people to opt for public transport, thereby reducing traffic congestion and lowering our carbon footprint,” she noted. “As we have seen in air travel over the last 40 years, lower fares and more frequent and faster services will ultimately result in greater usage of rail services,” she added.

Furthermore, Senator Chambers suggested the innovative addition of standing "Virtual Meeting" rooms on trains for the longer journeys, which could be booked in 30-minute slots at a small cost that would provide Irish Rail with an income stream from business travellers. These rooms would allow passengers to conduct business meetings while traveling, effectively transforming trains into mobile offices and utilising unused space on trains. “Integrating virtual meeting spaces on our trains will cater to the needs of modern professionals, making rail travel a practical choice for business as well as leisure. This initiative aligns with the EU’s digital and environmental agendas, promoting a flexible and sustainable mode of transport,” she said.

Senator Chambers has written to the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, and requested a meeting to prioritise these enhancements to Ireland's rail links. By investing in infrastructure, reinstating essential services, reducing fares, and introducing innovative solutions, Ireland can lead the way in creating a modern, efficient, and sustainable rail network.