All aboard for better bus and train links
Local people who travel regularly to Athlone or Dublin without taking their cars have good news to look forward to in the coming months.
Irish Rail has confirmed that extra carriages will soon be deployed on the Sligo to Dublin line; and TFI Local Link Longford Westmeath Roscommon is putting on a new bus route between Mullingar and Athlone, with the bonus of a service linking Mullingar town centre and Belvedere.
Irish Rail has confirmed that extra carriages are to be deployed on the Sligo to Dublin line.
In a recent meeting with Deputy Robert Troy, Irish Rail chief executive Jim Meade confirmed that train sets on the line will be extended in an attempt to tackle overcrowding problems.
In a follow-up email to Deputy Troy, Mr Meade said that he expects the 41 carriages recently delivered to Irish Rail will enter the service by the end of the year.
“These carriages will be used to add capacity to existing services by extending the length of existing train sets. Some of this extra capacity will be deployed on the Mullingar and Sligo services.”
The Irish Rail chief also informed Deputy Troy that Irish Rail has placed orders for the first two of 37 Alstom train sets that it plans to introduce to the network in the coming years, starting in early 2025.
In his email to Deputy Troy, Mr Meade said that the new trains, which will add 185 carriages to the network, will allow Irish Rail “the option to cascade train sets on intercity routes such as Sligo to further enhance the frequency of services on the line”.
Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, Deputy Troy welcomed the confirmation that Irish Rail is attempting to address the overcrowding issues on the Sligo to Dublin line. “It’s something I raised directly with the minister for transport. I sought a meeting with Jim Meade in his office at the Irish Rail headquarters to raise my concerns [about overcrowding].
“There are huge challenges on the rail service at the moment. While it is not nice to see or hear about standing all the way to Dublin, it’s good to see people utilising public transport.
“If we are serious about getting people to make the change to public transport, we have make sure that our train network has capacity, reliability and affordability.
“Mr Meade has given a good indication of the timeline for the addition of increased capacity. This line is a priority based on the capacity issues. It’s good to see that capacity will be increasing in the short term and it’s good to hear that there are huge plans coming down the line.
“However, it is really important in the short term that the capacity issues are addressed if we want commuters to continue to choose to use public transport instead of their cars.”
TFI Local Link Longford Westmeath Roscommon is launching a new bus route between Mullingar and Athlone, from Monday August 28.
This new route is part of the Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan, a major national public transport initiative developed and funded by the National Transport Authority (NTA) as part of the Transport for Ireland (TFI) Network.
Route 819 will operate five return trips seven days a week. It is the second of two new rural regular routes the NTA and TFI Local Link Longford Westmeath Roscommon launched this summer.
The route will connect villages and areas such as Castletown Geoghegan, Loughnavalley, Ballymore, Drumraney, Mount Temple and Baylin.
The new route will offer a peak-time service for commuters as well as late evening services.
It will also provide improved connectivity to regional bus services and the wider TFI network with connections at Mullingar and Athlone Irish Rail station to facilitate onward travel to Dublin, Sligo and Galway.
It will also serve the FÁS Centre in Garrycastle and the Fardrum stop will connect passengers to the Athlone campus of the Technological University of the Shannon.
The route will also serve as a link between Mullingar and Belvedere House Gardens and Park, with three services a day.
TFI Local Link Longford Westmeath Roscommon general manager, Damien O’Neill, said: “We are delighted to launch this important link between the towns of Mullingar and Athlone.
“This route is a priority for our area, and it will play an important part in developing reliable connections for our passengers.
“We all know the importance of using sustainable modes of public transport from an environmental point of view.
“It is also vital that passengers have a frequent bus service which they can rely on to travel to work, college, training, sightseeing, or meeting family and friends.
“In partnership with the NTA we are working to deliver affordable, accessible, appropriate public transport for our area.
“The NTA is committed to the growth and development of local bus services, which in this case, is a brand-new high frequency service linking two key rural towns that will provide opportunities for people to get where they need to go.”