Following consultations with commuters and constituents, I raised issues to do with online booking, timetabling and availability of services on the Ennis to Athenry (Western Rail Corridor) route in a letter to Iarnrod Eireann senior management some months back.

The reply from Mr. Richard Fearn, Chief Executive, confirms that online booking will be made available on the Ennis to Galway route by this September and Deputy Carey has welcomed this.

I had concerns with certain aspects of the operation of the Western Rail Corridor. In particular, at a time when many people are paying for goods and services online, and when Irish Rail has a concerted effort to advertise their online booking procedures, I was bemused that services between Ennis and Athenry cannot currently be booked online.

I sought detail from Iarnrod Eireann on this and have received assurances from the Chief Executive, Richard Fearn, that this facility will be available from September onwards. I welcome this fact and hope now that Irish Rail will be proactive in advertising this facility and bringing online promotional fares to the attention of the public.

I was also concerned that commuters couldn’t even get a cup of tea on the service at present, as no on-board catering services are available. I note that this aspect of Irish Rail’s business is handled by a third party but would encourage the company, following the availability of online fares, to look again at this aspect of the business.

In terms of scheduling, I note that the fastest trains currently available on the route both leave mid-afternoon, and would not be relevant to the vast majority of commuters in terms of getting to work or college. If we could get an early morning train, with a running time of less than 1 hour 15 minutes, and this was advertised locally, it would in my opinion receive support. The Ennis to Limerick service has performed well since it returned and I believe there is potential to increase business on the Ennis to Athenry line.

Many persons campaigned long and hard in the Mid-West for the return of the Western Rail Corridor. Now that we have this service in place, it is up to communities all along the western seaboard to ensure we maximise the economic return from the service, at a time when central Government funding is limited.