Since colleges opened in September, student commuter numbers have surged due to the accommodation crisis.

Anger over overcrowding on commuter trains to Dublin

Angry claims that passengers can be left standing on commuter trains because too few carriages are being provided from Mullingar to Dublin were made by councillors at the November meeting of the Municipal District of Mullingar Kinnegad.

The complaints of the council members are to be relayed to the Minister for Transport and to the CEO of Irish Rail.

Leading the charge was Cllr Ken Glynn, who had a motion on the agenda proposing that the district write to Iarnród Éireann seeking an immediate increase in carriage capacity on their trains “given the severe overcrowding many people are experiencing using their daily services”.

“This is a situation that I’m hearing about on a weekly basis and I’m sure other members are hearing about it as well,” said Cllr Glynn as he appealed for the support of his colleagues.

The Fianna Fáil man pointed out that because of the accommodation crisis, a lot more students are now opting to commute to college. Since the college term had resumed in September, the numbers using the trains had soared.

“It used to be the case that you would hear that it was ‘standing room only’, and you might get to sit outside a carriage,” he said. Now, however, “they are standing absolutely stuck to one another”.

“And we’re still in Covid time,” he added.

Cllr Glynn said he understands that most mornings, there are just four carriages on the train catering for the entire route from Sligo to Dublin – but a student of his acquaintanceship who took the last train home one evening was amazed to discover that it had seven carriages, and was almost empty.

“Like who in God’s name is watching this?” he asked.

Cllr Glynn went on to say he wants a letter written to Iarnród Éireann, and to the minister as well – “and ask him what the hell is going on”.

“This is ridiculous,” he continued, before going on to express his real fear: “If, God forbid, there’s an incident with one train, we are facing a major escalation of… God knows… in terms of an accident and what our emergency services [will] have to face.”

Support for Cllr Glynn’s call came from Cllr Denis Leonard, who said assurances had been give that there would be more carriages on the line in 2022.

“If you ask anyone what Maynooth, DCU, Trinity and IT Sligo have in common, as well as being some of the largest third level institutions in the country, they’re all on the Dublin Sligo line,” he said.

Cllr Leonard said a senior representative from Irish Rail needs to come to a district meeting and explain “the logistical layout of the amount of trains”.

“Do they do a passenger analysis? Do they do the analysis of student times and colleges and workers on these trains?”

While Iarnród Éireann had ignored representations from the council in the past, they needed to answer questions on this issue – “because Mullingar is our county town”.

“It needs access to Dublin; it needs access to Sligo; it needs appropriate access, and unless we get our finger out and demand it, and demand that they come and report to us… the options are few,” he said.

Also dissatisfied with the Irish Rail service was Cllr Emily Wallace, who was aware of pregnant women and people on their way to hospital appointments who’d had to stand for their journeys.

She said that while Iarnród Éireann may say it has increased the frequency of services from Mullingar, the simple fact is that the majority of people traveling on their service are early morning commuters.

“We are now in a position where, as a country, we are trying to go green, to reduce our own emissions; people are being encouraged to use public transport; there’s active promotion to use bus and rail,” Cllr Wallace said, complaining that despite that, Irish Rail is not following through on its promises to increase the number of carriages.

Cllr Aoife Davitt pointed out that even more students will be commuting in light of the cancellation of accommodation for 1200 UCD students.

“It is such a fantastic option that we have in Mullingar, that line, to service so many of the universities,” she stated, before stressing that it was important that everyone on the council was on the same wavelength.

Cllr Bill Collentine said he uses the train quite a bit, and that there does tend to be overcrowding. “Something needs to be done about the number of carriages that’s on it. It should seriously be looked at,” he said. Also expressing support for Cllr Glynn’s motion was Cllr John Shaw.