Dublin decides

bridge over the Liffey

Whats the craic?

Where are the people who make the decisions affecting public transport in Fishguard? Obviously not in Fishguard. But where are they?

If you follow Fishguard Trains, you’ll know they can be found in …

CARDIFF – Welsh Government has more powers over public transport in Wales than it did back in 1999. Still not enough to force bus and train operators to integrate their services. But enough to encourage Deputy First Ministers to spot the votes in restoring a decent rail service to North Pembrokeshire.

LONDON – UK Government holds most of the cards when it comes to major infrastructure – London governments make decisions which outrage most or all of Wales, then back down and do the right thing second time round – remember S4C? … electrification to Swansea (or not)? …

BERLIN – HQ of Deutsche Bahn, one of the world’s largest transport multinationals, own most rail services and franchises in Wales, and a large slice of the bus action too.

ABERDEEN – HQ of First Group, owners of First Great Western, franchised to run most of the rest of rail in Wales.

And there’s one more place – DUBLIN.

That’s where the people are who –

general view of Rosslare Europort

Mind the Gap

* Have closed the walk on – walk off rail-sea interchange at Rosslare, and moved the station to the opposite side of the harbour (click the picture to see the new gap between ferry and train)..

* Have closed the railway from Rosslare to Waterford, cutting rail links from Ireland’s second European port to the whole of the Irish midlands and west

* operate this rail-sea timetable straight out of Alice in Wonderland:

STENA
Fishguard Harbour 14:30
Rosslare Europort 18:00
IRISH RAIL
Rosslare Europort 17:55
Dublin Connolly 20:44

Fishguard Trains regular Swansea Jack comments: “Is it only me that gets the feeling that IR are deliberately trying to make it difficult to use trains from Rosslare – it feels like BR from the 1960s and the Beeching era to me.”

No, it isn’t only you, SJ. It’s all of us on the west coast of Wales looking over to Ireland and wondering how long before the suits in Dublin pull the plugs on anything that doesn’t go by air, or at least sail out of the Liffey.

Fishguard Trains thinks we should tell Dublin that their decisions about Rosslare are not just a little local matter, but of real concern to their European neighbours. Before doing so, we want to hear from more of you:

– does travel to and from Ireland by rail and sea matter?

– should the timetables make sense and and through ticketing work?

– are we happy for all Wales-Ireland traffic to go through Holyhead?

– should international public transport be made as easy as it is to continental Europe?

The Irish Minister of Transport, Tourism and Sport says that his priorities are to “Increase the number of tourists coming to Ireland and improving their experience of Ireland and its regions.”

How would we like our experience to be improved?

 

15 Comments

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15 Responses to Dublin decides

  1. DBJ

    I had some Irish friends over a few weeks back for the Rugby, and was chatting to them about their rail system. It seems that railways are less of a part of the national psyche in Ireland than in the UK. As a nation I think that when we travel abroad, we tend to have a greater expectation that there will be a train service of some kind to connect with whatever mode of transportation that we have arrived in. So I can’t quite buy the fact there isn’t a demand for foot passengers arriving in Rosslare to use the perfectly good train link that exists. I mean, what do the residents of Rossslare gain from leaving for Dublin a whole five minutes earlier?

  2. Swansea Jack

    From what I remember the issue of connections between the ferries and Dublin line trains has existed since the early / mid 1970s at a time when the ferry operator would have been more focused on dealing with the then expanding roll on – roll off road traffic. Times change though, and surely in this era common sense would suggest that trying to meet the requirements of both ro-ro road traffic and ferry foot passengers as well as local traffic would be a priority, firstly for Stena, but more importantly for Irish Rail.

    At Fishguard Harbour we have developed the train service from being one solely focused on ferry passengers to one that now meets the needs of both local and ferry passengers. It is high time that those in charge of compiling train timetables in Irish Rail did their job properly and similarly provided a service that meets the needs of local customers on the Rosslare – Dublin route, and those ferry foot passengers needing a connection.

    My underlying impression is that Irish Rail don’t see a future for the Wexford to Rosslare railway line. The moving of Rosslare railway station away from the ferry terminal building to save the one-off cost of providing an automatic level crossing installation effectively identical to the one at Fishguard Harbour is a decision that smacks of sheer incompetence.

    The population of Rosslare itself should be really worried about the future of their last remaining rail link, the addition of foot passenger traffic using the rail-sail option, presently being lost by poor connections, could be the difference between Rosslare keeping or losing its train service. I am reminded of a consultants report early in the Fishguard trains campaign that noted little difference between the options in maintaining or closing the railway line from Clarbeston Road to Fishguard Harbour. I would suggest that with the additional trains and the re-opening of Goodwick station the resulting increase in passenger numbers from circa 25,000 p.a to 47,000 p.a. would make closing the line considerably less likely. Rosslare residents need to wake up before it is too late – they have already lost the rail link that links them to Waterford, Limerick and the Irish South West!! It seems as if Rosslare residents need something like our North Pembs Transport forum and Fishguard Trains sooner rather than later!!!

  3. Irishman

    At the bottom of this post are links to some recent articles about Rosslare Europort.

    Granted the budget airlines have taken the lion’s share of the the rail and sea market but how many more passengers have been needlessly lost due to problems travelling to/from the port by public transport, specifically rail?

    I concur 100% with the views in the two previous posts – that there is a market for foot passengers at Rosslare and that the rail timetable needs to be adjusted to facilitate both domestic passengers as well as ferry foot passengers. The Fishguard example shows how the two can be reconciled. A win win for all which ultimately protects the rail line and associated jobs, brings end user benefits and crucially benefits to the broader economy so important in these cash-strapped times.

    The port authority (viz. Irish Rail) have an ultimate plan for a railfreight terminal at Rosslare subject to the development traffic. This is documented in the port’s June 2011 submission to Wexford County Council regarding the County Development Plan, the relevant extract of which reads:

    “It is also envisaged that a Railfreight facility would be developed once a critical mass has been achieved. In refusing the Port of Cork’s proposals for a LoLo facility at Ringaskiddy, An Bord Pleanála considered that the proposed development would “be unable to make use of rail freight carrying facilities in the future”17. The potential for integration of Railfreight at Rosslare therefore offers an important competitive advantage over other some ports, and also contributes towards the
    achievement of Ireland’s Kyoto & EU targets for greenhouse gas emissions.
    However, it is important to emphasise that the development of a Railfreight terminal is dependent upon the development of sufficient demand to generate an economic return on the investment. It is
    not yet clear whether adequate demand can be generated on the basis of MAFI container traffic alone, or whether a full LoLo or ConRo service would be required to generate sufficient demand to justify a Railfreight terminal. Indeed, it may be necessary to operate a full LoLo or ConRo service for some time before a realistic business case for Railfreight can be demonstrated.”

    I think the Rosslare – Dublin line is safe – at least for the next few years (hopefully for all time). The Minister apparently said last year that there would be no railway line closures. Besides if the worst came to the worst there are two or three lines less used than the Rosslare line which would fall under the spotlight first.

    http://www.independent.ie/regionals/wexfordpeople/news/views-are-sought-on-rosslare-europort-29035193.html
    http://www.independent.ie/regionals/wexfordpeople/news/dispute-over-whether-or-not-port-should-be-privatised-29080547.html
    http://www.independent.ie/regionals/wexfordpeople/news/varadkar-stresses-the-importance-of-rosslare-harbour-28913878.html

  4. Swansea Jack

    I hope that you are correct about the long term future of the Wexford – Rosslare line Irishman. My concern is that once lost it becomes expensive and difficult to restore rail services, and with the present upward trend in road fuel prices I fear for communities that lose their rail links. I do believe that the low cost airlines will soon enough be a distant memory, it is noticeable how less cheap they appear to be already in comparison with say 5 years back for short haul mainland Europe destinations.

    The poor airport experience puts off lots of potential customers and it is to be hoped that Ireland avoids relying only upon air and car for incoming tourist flows.

    As I see it the train and ferry services already exist, with a need for very little or even no additional expenditure a far more attractive provision for rail-sail passengers could be provided. Even if it only resulted in an additional 25 passengers a day that is 25 more than at present, and the only cost would be the time spent by a timetabler to adjust the train times.

    When the Icelandic ash cloud stopped air flights it was noticeable how many additional passengers were carried by the trains to Fishguard – around 6000 to 7000 or so over a couple of weeks. Holyhead saw an additional 50,00 or so rail passenger numbers over that period. Irish Rail held the evening train at Rosslare to cater for foot passengers off the ferry during this time, but it saw little increase as potential passengers who looked at timetables before travelling would not have even considered rail on the Irish side of St George’s channel. That was a missed opportunity, caused as the trains didn’t usually connect so no-one expected them to.

    I have in the past used the rail-sail option via Rosslare, to tour around the Republic, and to make day and short break trips to the likes of Waterford and Kilkenny, Dublin and Limerick, and have hopefully paid towards the economy while so doing. The thought of a long windswept walk across a lorry park, the lack of services towards Waterford, Kilkenny and Limerick and the poor connections between ferry and the Dublin route has certainly curtailed any plans I had to repeat the visits. I hold Irish Rail decision makers 100% responsible for this, and I am aware of many others who have a similar view.

    Even if I believed in short haul flights, the need to head 90 miles East towards Cardiff to catch a flight to Dublin when Rosslare is only 54 nautical miles away is crazy, and would incur a time penalty. Irish tourism needs to be banging a few heads together in IR, any claims they have towards green tourism sound completely hollow from where I’m standing.

    Many thanks Irishman for the links to the development proposals – interesting reading!

  5. Rhydgaled

    Some Welsh Government heads need bashing when it comes to claims of green-ness also. Not only does the majority of their transport capital spend seem to go on road capacity increases, encouraging increased car use, they are subidising the most poluting form of travel (aviation, between Cardiff and Holyhead in this case)??!?!?!?!

    Meanwhile Arriva bus cut Swansea from their Aberystwyth – Cardiff service some time ago, now timetabled at 1hr 26min between Carmarthen and Cardiff, while Arriva train is still basicly limited to 1hr 40min (plus) journeys via Swansea for Carmarthen – Cardiff. The Iuean Air money should be spent on an additional Carmarthen – Cardiff train or two, which should be routed via the SDL.

  6. DBJ

    I can certainly recall what a great experience it used to be. Buying a through ticket to Dublin for a very reasonable and competitive price from the man in the booking office in Haverfordwest, making the smooth and undercover transition from Ferry to train at Rosslare, having a nice weekend in the Irish capital and doing it all again seamlessly in reverse. It all seems quite needless for it to be so difficult now! I think we should be asking the WAG to put pressure on Dublin about this and the closure of the Waterford line, they have literally severed a European transport corridor.

  7. Constitution Class

    Getting the Stena ferry from Wales to Rosslare without my car is a thing I do with great infrequency. This infrequency is in part due to the discomfort of seeing the 5.55 train to Dublin departing as as my ferry arrives a frustrating 5 minutes after the train has gone! Ergo I am forced to endure the expense of transporting my car if I wish to be in Dublin at a reasonable hour! More often than not I fly to avoid the irritation of seeing the train I’d gladly take departing before my eyes! I am but one passenger of legion who is lost to Irish Rail; and from what I can see they need every last cent if they want to keep open!

  8. SouthEast (Irl) Observer

    Excellent and timely discussion – this EU Regulation (No. 1371/2007) may be relevant:

    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2007:315:0014:0041:EN:PDF

    There may be legal recourse through the ECJ; the rail operator may argue that the ferry operator should change their sailing times to suit the trains, but it may be possible to rebut that.

    • Spad

      Legal recourse … how very interesting. Here’s the relevant text from REGULATION (EC) No 1371/2007 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL
      of 23 October 2007 on rail passengers’ rights and obligations:

      (7) Railway undertakings should cooperate to facilitate the transfer of rail passengers from one operator to another by the provision of through tickets, whenever possible.

      (10) Rail passenger services should benefit citizens in general. Consequently, disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, whether caused by disability, age or any other factor, should have opportunities for rail travel comparable to those of other citizens.

      (11) … to ensure that, in accordance with Community public procurement rules, all buildings and rolling stock are made accessible through the
      progressive elimination of physical obstacles and functional hindrances when acquiring new material or carrying out construction or major renovation work.

      On the face of it, the degrading of interchange facilities at Rosslare is in breach of EU Regulation.
      BUT – does the regulation apply? This is how it defines its scope:

      1 ‘railway undertaking’ means a railway undertaking as defined in Article 2 of Directive 2001/14/EC (1), and any other public or private undertaking the activity of which is to provide transport of goods and/or passengers by rail

      10 ‘through ticket’ means a ticket or tickets representing a transport contract for successive railway services operated by one
      or several railway undertakings;

      No mention there of ferries or sea crossings, which is perhaps surprising, as they are a common enough component of European rail journeys.
      So unless there is another European Regulation on rail-sail integration, it doesn’t look hopeful – does it, SouthEast(Irl) Observer?

      • SouthEast (Irl) Observer

        There are of course more EU Directives and Regulations that bear on this situation; essentially the Irish government appears to be, via its railway operator, and either deliberately or by default, obstructing the free movement of citizens of EU member states into and out of the country.

        I think a compelling legal case can be made and advise contacting regional MEPs.

        Regulation 1371/2007 also contains references to “Missed Connections”, with attendant compensation. I think, in legal terms, that a compelling case for “missed connection” can be made regarding the situation at Rosslare “Europort” (sic).

        Also since the Rosslare – Dublin train was temporarily re-timed to meet the ferries during the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud disruption to air travel in 2010, legal precedent has been established that the rail operator can time its schedules to meet the ferries if it so desires.

        • SouthEast (Irl) Observer

          Have now found the corresponding Regulation (1177/2010)pertaining to the rights of passengers travelling by sea or inland waterway in the EU;

          http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2010:334:0017:011:en:PDF

          Preamble clause (5) :
          Member States should promote the use of public transport and the use of integrated tickets in order to optimise the use and interoperability of the various transport modes and operators.

          (8):
          Assistance given at ports situated in the territory of a Member State should, among other things, enable disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility to proceed from a designated point of arrival at a port to a passenger ship and from a passenger ship to a designated point of departure at a port, including embarking and disembarking.

          (11):
          Legal acts of the Union on passenger rights should take into account the needs of passengers, in particular those of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, to use different transport modes and to transfer smoothly between different modes, subject to the applicable safety regulations for the operation of ships.

          These clauses (in the Preamble) seem to strengthen the case significantly.

  9. DBJ

    I’ve recently been watching Michael Portillo travel around the south of Ireland on another BBC railway journey, thinking that it is rather ironic that they are selling the virtues of something that is now not very accessible for us on this side of the water! I know it is a bit of a conspiracy theory, but it does seem that we are being forced to take our cars across, thus bringing extra revenue for the Ferry companies?

  10. DBJ

    Just sent a message about this matter with the link to this forum to Paul Davies AM, from what I recall he has been quite pro-active in supporting the Fishguard rail improvements.

    http://www.pauldaviesam.co.uk

  11. Business along the line

    The firm I work for, in one of the towns on the Dublin Rosslare line, does quite a bit of business in West/South Wales which requires several trips over a year by one or two staff as well as our welsh counterparts coming over from time to time. We always go by ferry and quite often as foot passengers as we have no need to transport items, other than our paperwork/laptops. Going by air would be illogical due to the significant distance to and from the airports on both sides. On our last business trip we were dropped to Rosslare for the 9 am ferry – no public transport from north of Wexford town to the port at that time of day. Had a productive morning working on the ship and lunch before arriving. Train down to our destination and were met by our Welsh colleagues. We worked well into the evening before returning on the night train. Got cabins on the ferry and about 4 hours rest. Back in Rosslare a short wait and caught the train up at 7.20. Had a normal day’s work. Myself and colleagues are all one car people and most of us have families so a car sitting in Rosslare NCPS awaiting our return is simply not an option. Getting dropped or picked at the port often has several knock on effects and requires family members to juggle kids activities etc etc there are as you know several large towns along the line. Students attend various unis and colleges in Wales, people go there on breaks as well as for business. Proper reliable public transport to fromthe port is a must. Constant chopping and changing of times and routes doesn’t help. Consistency does. Promotion and marketing does. Only recently did we learn that a ticket from the station here to the station in Wales can be obtained which works out cheaper than a separate rail ticket. Nobody cares who is at fault, the rail company, the ferry company, the port, all three, some or none. Just get the act together and make it work for the broader good.

    • Spad

      Our debate about the rundown of Rosslare is making waves across Irish Sea. Irish MEP Nessa Childers has now drawn it to the attention of the Irish Transport Minister, saying “I am concerned that the the Irish government appears to be, via its railway operator obstructing the free movement of citizens of EU member states into and out of the country”.

      For the full story, and to continue this debate, click here.

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