NTA considering proposals to end direct rail services between Wexford and Dublin

Two separate studies into capacity of Rosslare route would have passengers change trains onto Dart service at Wicklow or Greystones

The National Transport Authority (NTA) is looking at plans to end direct rail services between Co Wexford and Dublin.

Two separate studies into capacity on the line are considering having passengers from the Rosslare line change from intercity trains to Dart carriages at either Wicklow or Greystones.

The move comes as passenger numbers on the line have grown strongly in recent years, with daily boardings at Wexford station in 2022 more than twice what they were in 2013. Passenger numbers at Enniscorthy have also grown significantly, while in May 2022, Irish Rail introduced a new night-time service between Gorey and Connolly, to meet demand.

The move also comes as Rosslare port is being rapidly expanded post-Brexit, including a new, €170 million facility for workers including gardaí, customs, HSE, and Department of Agriculture personnel, for which Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan initiated construction last September.

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The port owner, Irish Rail, has said “the next five years will see historical investment and the largest ever developments at the port through a number of proposed projects” including an offshore renewable energy hub.

However, in an email to Co Wexford based Senator Malcolm Byrne, seen by The Irish Times, the deputy chief executive of the NTA Hugh Creegan said: “The current proposals under development envisage that train services from Rosslare/Gorey would terminate at either Wicklow or Greystones and passengers would interchange to the Dart service at that interchange point.”

Mr Creegan said “this would allow more frequent services to be provided by diesel trains operating between Rosslare and Wicklow/Greystones, linking in with the frequent Dart services from that point northwards”.

He said: “The current feasibility study being undertaking for the Dart battery train service between Greystones and Wicklow town, is also assessing whether that interchange should be at Wicklow or Greystones”. Mr Cregan said the feasibility study was assessing the potential for an hourly Dart, but he said work was at an early stage.

Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny said “delivering additional frequency on the Rosslare to Dublin line has always been challenging in the context of a high frequency Dart service from Bray to Dublin, and this challenge will increase with improvements in Greystones Dart frequency”.

He added maximising capacity in the Greater Dublin Area and facilitating increased services on the Rosslare line “would include an interchange to connect to Dart services”.

The proposals were however criticised by Mr Byrne who said “forcing passengers to have to change trains at Wicklow or Greystones will not encourage more passengers to use rail”.

The voluntary group Rail Users Ireland said changing trains would “kill” the Rosslare service.

“Who is going to get off an intercity train with a nice seat, to cross at Wicklow where there is no fully accessible access at present, and wait in the rain for a Dart train. Would the Dart train be gone, if the Rosslare train is late?” the group’s spokesman Mark Gleeson asked.

Mr Gleeson compared the move to “asking passengers on the Belfast line change at Malahide or those on the Cork line change at Hazlehatch, before they enter the Dublin area”.

“It is a horrible idea,” he said.

South East on Track, an organisation established to improve rail services in the region, said the proposal will “marginally improve services for Kilcoole and Wicklow, while making the services almost unusable for passengers at busier stations further south”.

It pointed out there were no proposals to terminate any other Inter City or commuter services in neighbouring counties to Dublin.

“The NTA will likely claim that this proposal is the only option to improve services on the Rosslare line. This is untrue. In the short term, using the third track at Bray station, and extending the turnback at Grand Canal Dock could provide passing options to alleviate conflicts between Inter City trains and Darts. In the long term, additional passing locations can be explored and developed,” it said.

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