An urgent of review pricing, travel times and advertising is needed for the Western Rail Corridor to boost passenger numbers on the route. The Western Rail Corridor is a vital piece of infrastructure, which the Government is committed to maintaining. But I am concerned that high prices, a lack of promotion and poor travel times are putting people off making the most of what should be a highly attractive and efficient way of getting around.
Aspects of the project have been very successful; for example, passenger numbers through Ennis station and at several stations from Galway to Athenry have improved significantly. But many problems persist elsewhere. I took to social media sites in recent weeks to get the views of regular users of the service. It’s clear from their opinions that certain factors are impacting on passenger numbers.
Last week, I tried to buy a return Ennis to Galway ticket online. But I found that no online tickets were available because individual seats cannot be booked online for this route, which seems utterly ridiculous. Irish Rail’s online service needs to be updated immediately.
Travel times and pricing are also acting as significant deterrents. It takes an hour and a half to travel from Ennis to Galway by train. Taking the bus is at least 15 minutes quicker, while driving is faster still. I have asked Irish Rail to directly address how they plan to reduce travel times. The price of a train ticket for this journey is €17.90 for a day return, while a monthly or overnight ticket is €29.40. This discrepancy is exorbitant and impossible to justify.
We can’t expect people to opt for the train if it’s taking them longer and costing them more than other options. Irish Rail should consider offering fares similar to the Ryanair model for under €10. They could then make money on other services, such as catering and parking. A major marketing drive for the Western Rail Corridor is badly needed, to inform the public of the services and deals on offer. Our region has fought long and hard for the return of our rail services; we must now ensure the best service possible is on offer.