Rail campaigner (still) waiting for answer on Killucan station
From Denis Leonard, chairperson Killucan Kinnegad Transport Lobby Group
This is the letter (below) I sent to Irish Rail seven weeks ago and I still do not have an answer.
I asked the chief executive of Westmeath County Council, and the transport SPC director at this week’s council meeting why they are not pursuing Irish Rail for an answer when Irish Rail said they would come back to us on the feasibility study by the end of the summer.
Three UN climate reports this week point to catastrophic climate events, due to global warming, greenhouse gases being at their highest ever, and governments not giving real benchmarks for reaching low emission targets.
With transport at our highest emitter and with a supposed two-to-one investment on public transport over roads a government policy, why is Westmeath so slow to demand action on this, when the motorways are choked and countless numbers of citizens are funnelled to them, wasting hours of their lives, when an obvious alternative is right beside us.
The same is true of the Mullingar to Athlone rail line. With a hospital in Mullingar and a technical university in Athlone, how many unnecessary car journeys are made because of having no public transport link?
The time for action is now, and rising costs will only provide a convenient excuse.
It is absolute negligence not to act immediately to put an end to the constant cutting of bus routes in the midlands and giving the people who live here little access to national train service.
Real rural regeneration would allow us to work, shop, bank and recreate close to home, and when we have to travel, have access to affordable accessible public transport.
Killucan Kinnegad Transport Lobby Group
9th September 2022
Mr Jim Meade, Chief Executive, Iarnród Éireann, Amien Street, Dublin 1. D01 V6V6
Dear Mr. Meade,
This time last year I wrote to you with great hope as yet another year came to an end; another year without Killucan station being reopened. I had great hopes that our meeting in Dáil Éireann in March 2019 would produce a meeting between you and the Westmeath county manager Pat Gallagher to advance the station; this still has not happened. We in the lobby group have been through four Irish rail CEs, four county managers and six ministers since 2001.
We really want to progress Killucan station at a time when new carriages are coming on line and the government has promised a two to one investment in rail over roads. The Taoiseach even recently voiced his support for the western rail corridor and said how essential rail is. We simply want access to a perfectly functioning line in a county of 100,000 that has only two rail stations. The rest of our stations are left as a memorial to a forgotten past.
I know your officials met with Westmeath County Council officials this year and your people indicated that they would look to progress an independent feasibility study with the NTA. Could you please provide our group with an update on that study? We hope that many people in the wider Killucan and Kinnegad areas will get the opportunity to feed into it. Our group would also welcome that opportunity.
If you examine the demographics of our area, most people actually work in the greater Dublin area and our population here has increased 400% in the last 20 years with, in the main, Dublin commuters.
The station would completely pay for itself once there is capacity on the train. We realise carriages are an issue, maybe the real issue, so when you take delivery of the extra Sligo line carriages, we want Kinnegad and Killucan and surrounding areas to have access to the Sligo Dublin line.
Dromod in Leitrim is on the line and has access to it, with just a population of 555, and it is still being used.
As an organisation, several government departments can assist you in funding this development, including, obviously the Dept of Transport, as well as the Dept of Climate Action and Environment on using the carbon tax for public transport projects, and the the Dept of Rural and Community Development for rural development funding, which is an option for you to directly draw down as well. The BMW fund has a transport option of up to 50% of cost,
Public transport projects at the minute all seem to be geared towards Dublin and other big cities. For example, the Metro in Dublin would cost upwards of€10,000 per person if everyone within a 15 kilometre radius of any station used it.
Killucan station would cost less than €300 per commuter if all those within 10k used it and €100 per person if all those within 15k used it. (That is a startling figure of anywhere from one 10th to one 30th the price, without even factoring in the funding to come from EU).
In our area of the midlands, we have few, if any, viable public transport options (unlike the multiple options in Dublin).
In essence, the funds can be accessed to reopen Killucan station, which has all the vital infrastructure and car parking already in place; it just needs upgrading.
Our county council and all midlands development plans are fully supportive of its reopening.
The reasons our group feel that the station must be opened as a matter of urgency are:
1. The excessive number of commuters leaving east Westmeath every day to go to Dublin, and the nearest station in Enfield is between 12 and 20 miles away driving on the choked M4;
2. The train stops here eight times each way anyway, because the only double track is at Killucan. It seems there are no timetabling issues.
3. With global warming and 51% reduction by 2030 climate target being destroyed by transport (over 30%of total) because of the lack of options like Killucan station, it seems obvious that the fines Ireland will pay for missing carbon targets would open numerous stations. Ring fenced carbon tax increase is now an option.
4. If rural Ireland is to survive, it needs meaningful transport alternatives. Under your watch Killucan station could become a prototype for revamping old stations in expanding rural areas to have a lifeline to the national rail network. Two major rail lines go through our county and we need full access to each in an era of proposed 2 to 1 public transport investment.
Will you please work with us to make this station a reality and the vital lifeline it can be to a massive rural population? Can you please outline to us your plans for advancing the feasibility study?
We look forward to working with you on this project.
Chairperson Killucan Kinnegad Transport Lobby Group