Irish MEP raises Fishguard Trains debate with Minister

Nessa Childers MEP for Ireland East

Nessa Childers MEP

Nessa Childers, MEP for the Ireland East constituency, has raised the bi-national Fishguard Trains debate on the rundown of Rosslare with Ireland’s Transport Minister Alan Kelly TD.

In the past week. Fishguard Trains has hosted an increasingly vigorous discussion about the alarming rundown of the rail-sail route through Rosslare and Fishguard. Commentators on both sides of the Irish Sea have noted the progressive loss of connections, closure of services and dismantling of walk-on walk-off facilities at the Irish port. When the question of a potential breach of European Regulations was raised, Fishguard Trains drew the attention of local MEPs in Wales and Ireland to the issue.

Nessa Childers, daughter of a former President of Ireland, is a Labour MEP for the East constituency, which reaches from Rosslare in the south-east to Dundalk, north of Dublin. In her letter to Alan Kelly, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport responsible for Public and Commuter Transport, Childers criticises “the timetable anomaly … between the weekday arrival time of the Stena Line ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare and the train service from Rosslare to Dublin.” She describes “both sides stating that the other should revise their timetables to facilitate passengers.”

Quoting the European Regulations for both rail and sea passengers, she concludes:

“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. Regulation 1371/2007 also contains references to “Missed Connections”, with attendant compensation. 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.”

We welcome this important issue receiving attention at the level it deserves. Fishguard Trains has also referred the issue to Welsh MEPs. With Dublin taking an interest, we hope that Cardiff will do likewise.

15 Comments

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15 Responses to Irish MEP raises Fishguard Trains debate with Minister

  1. DBJ

    Just had this from Paul Davies AM:

    “Thank you for your email enquiry regarding transport connections and timing of these from Rosslare Europort in County Wexford, Southern Ireland.

    Since my election as the Welsh Assembly Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire in 2007, I have been actively involved in, and fully committed to, improving the infrastructure within and to Pembrokeshire as a whole, and additional rail services to and from Fishguard is the latest success.

    I was not aware of the difficulties faced by foot passengers on the other side of the Irish Sea. However, and I can fully appreciate your concerns in respect of scheduled transport connections being set to depart from Rosslare Harbour a few minutes before the Stena Ferry arrives, and I can understand how this would have an adverse effect on passengers wishing to travel across the Irish Sea from Fishguard without taking their car.

    In the circumstances, I will now write to the Irish Government raising these concerns and when I receive a reply I will, of course, let you know. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me and, in the meantime, should I be of further assistance to you in this or any other matter then please do not hesitate to contact me.”

  2. Thank you for your e-mail of 26th February about this important issue. As you rightly point out, this is an essential rail / ferry link which should be strengthened, not weakened. I will now discuss it with Irish MEPs and the governments and see if we could mount a concerted campaign with yourselves, if that is acceptable?

    Huge strategic decisions are going to be made under the new EU Connecting Europe Facility. It is totally unacceptable that the Irish Sea transport links should miss out on the opportunities this programme provides.

    One positive, new factor is that the Welsh government sees Ireland as a developing market for tourism in Wales. That’s something else to build on.

  3. Swansea Jack

    Great to see MEPs and AMs getting involved in this. Paul Davies has always been very supportive of the additional trains and Goodwick station campaigns, so great to see him getting involved in this issue. It is good to see politicians from the Republic getting involved at last, as the Dublin authorities have a major part to play in resolving this impasse. What is needed is a can do attitude from both Irish Rail and Stena Line, as both companies could improve passenger numbers at little additional cost to either company. Their bottom line finances would benefit, as well as those passengers who wish to travel between South Wales and Dublin and the south East of Ireland by the most environmentally sustainable option.

    This issue reminds me of the falling-out that happened in the late 1960s between Sealink / BR and the City of Cork Packet / B&I shipping line. The result was the loss of the Fishguard – Cork ferries which 40 years later has resulted in the complete loss in ferry links between South Wales and Cork, to the latter’s dis-benefit, and a quieter Fishguard Harbour. We don’t need another situation to arise where everyone loses out, simply to massage some people’s egos.

    • Spad

      Fishguard Trains is encouraged that politicians who between them represent two nations (Ireland and Wales), two parliaments (the Welsh Assembly and the European Parliament), and three parties (Plaid Cymru, the Irish Labour Party and the Welsh Conservatives) have come together to support the campaign to reverse the decline of European travel through Rosslare. It is early days, but already this has the feel of the “concerted campaign” called for by Jill Evans.

      But first we wait to hear from the main player: as Swansea Jack notes, “the Dublin authorities have a major part to play in resolving this impasse.” Nessa Childers calls on the Irish Government to remove the obstruction to “the free movement of citizens of EU member states into and out of the country”. We applaud her strong words, not least as she addresses them to the Irish Minister of Transport, Alan Kelly TD, a member of her own party.

      After recent wrangling, Europe has budgeted to spend €23billion over the next seven years on transport infrastructure to support growth between European countries. Jill Evans reminds us that it’s not a foregone conclusion where that money will go – that’s up to us, and our politicians.

      So how about it, Mr Kelly?

  4. DBJ

    I have received an email today from Paul Davies AM, he has had a response from Alan Kelly T.D. Minister of State for Commuter and Public Transport with The Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport in Dublin. Basically they are saying that altering the timetable to synchronise departures with the ferries would mean having to alter the pattern of services further up the line, which could prove difficult to timetable. Apparently though a review of the timetable is currently taking place, which goes out to the general public as a four-week consultation process, so Paul has asked for our concerns to be taken into consideration.

    • SouthEast Irl Observer

      Great work – the pressure must be maintained, particularly from the EU perspective. Ireland currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU, yet makes freedom of movement across its international border difficult and stressful for many, in breach of several EU Directives.

      Also one challenges “timetabling difficulty” and other blarney designed to obfuscate and distract – Iarnrod Eireann after all having been able to magically alter its timetables to provide Sea / Rail integration during the Ash Cloud crisis of 2010; such assertions simply do not stand up from a legal perspective.

  5. Irishman

    I travelled over by rail & sea in recent weeks. At Enniscorthy station my train passed (crossed in railway terms!) the 17.55hrs Rosslare Europort – Connolly train. I looked into the train, a 3-car InterCity railcar, and there were hardly any passengers onboard – seemed like 10 or so throughout the entire train to be honest.

    Wexford town is a key and sizeable urban centre and as such one would expect a train departing its very central O’Hanrahan station at 18.20 to be quite popular amongst commuters. However one must remember that the first southbound train of the day only reaches Wexford at midday thereby precluding any commuters or students using the train. So given that the current 17.55hrs train is essentially serving a leisure market it matter little what time it operates. Deferring it just over an hour or so to 19.15hrs. to facilitate the Fishguard ferry arrival will still have Dublin-bound leisure travellers in Dublin in time for final bus and rail services to commuter belt locations.

    And perhaps on a future trip I’ll be looking into a train carrying more passengers because it meets the ferry. Irish Rail are clearly concerned about revenue as they are going to destaff Rosslare Strand station in the near future as this recent newspaper article details:
    http://www.independent.ie/regionals/wexfordpeople/news/rosslare-strand-becoming-unmanned-29169007.html

    To anyone reading this not familiar with the area Rosslare Strand is a large village about 5 minutes by rail from Rosslare Europort. It has a resident population which swells considerably in Summer with holidaymakers, many of whom arrive from the Dublin area by rail. A fine beach, a very popular hotel and a couple of shops/facilities/eateries completes the picture. It’s also where the now disused (apart from occasional movements) line to Waterford branches off.

  6. Irishman

    PS: Irish Rail’s Blog, “Railway Lines” has a write-up about the timetable planning cycle:
    http://www.irishrail.ie/blog_post.jsp?blogID=1&a=343

    • Rhydgaled

      Aye, but I receive his e-mail newsletter and not all his activities have been quite so rosy from my point of view. Pressuring for dualing of the A40 west of St. Clears to be specific, somthing with the potential to undermine the competitivness of the Milford and Fishguard lines (Pembroke is already uncompetive of course, something which will only get worse if the new St. Clears – Red Roses road goes ahead).

      I’d much rather all this road ‘improvement’ money was diverted to places like Ceredigion so they can fix all the points on the A487 where landslips/collapses have closed one lane, for example. Any money left over should be used to stop any more public transport cuts.

  7. Swansea Jack

    Agreed. Paul does bring up the dualling of the A40 regularly. The dualling of the A55 apparently caused more visitors to make day trips thus reducing the income to tourist venues in North West Wales. I don’t see dualling of hte A40 as happening – recent bypasses haven’t been built as dual (e.g. Canaston Bridge / Robeston Wathen and the appetite doesn’t seem to be there. Red Roses to Llandowror will probably happen though because of the regular accidents along there.

    The Tenby – Pembroke dock railway needs speeding up by sorting out the level crossings – small money in the big scheme of things, and would save the long tern-rounds at the Dock too.

    The A487 at Glandyfi is in the process of being sorted, which is the biggest problem between Cardigan and Machynlleth, while present work at Brithdir and Ganllwyd will sort out some bits that do need sorting.

    Meanwhile the trains and ferries still don’t connect properly at Rosslare – to the ongoing shame of IR and the resultant damage to the Irish tourist economy. The Irish south west remains isolated from rail-sail too – such a shame when you consider the historical links between Fishguard and both Cork and Waterford until the 1970s……

  8. Anthony

    I recon you could do Tenby – Pembroke Dock in 22 minutes if you sort out the crossings as you mentioned Swansea Jack. The trains from Pembroke Dock can do the journey in 24 minutes even with the stops at Pembroke and Manorbier.
    One of the problems is the poor acceleration of some of atw’s class 153’s with the best units I have traveled on the branch on being a 2 carriage 175.

    The class 150’s are ok some being better than others, there is one example in atw’s fleet which accelerates as quickly as an emu at times.

    If the Pembroke Dock – Whitland journey time is cut to just 50 minutes then that would help the rail service compete with road especially in addition to a better frequency
    Cuts in journey times on the Pembrokedock branch with much short turnarounds could help reduce the number of units which can be used to improve services elsewhere

    • Rhydgaled

      Those level crossing fixes sound helpful, but St. Clears – Red Roses is no bypass, it looks like it’ll be a brand new express road of some distance. Is even Pembroke Dock to Whitland in 50 minutes likely to be fast enough to compete with that? Would it be better to concentrate on Tenby – Carmarthen, with Pembroke/Dock to Carmarthen being handed over to a new TrawsCymru service, with a light rail Tenby-Pembroke Dock shuttle?

      P.S. What are Network Rail’s plans for Welsh level crossings?

  9. Lawrence Hourahane

    Irish Rail will delaying the departure of the evening train from Rosslare from Tuesday 4 June to allow connections by foot passengers from the afternoon sailing.

  10. Swansea Jack

    Excellent news that there will now be an onward rail connection to Dublin out of the afternoon ferry service from Fishguard to Rosslare. Well done all.

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