Call for urgent improvements to Mayo-Dublin rail link

A CALL has been made for comprehensive improvements to the rail link between Mayo and Dublin.

Emphasising the need for enhanced service frequency, reduced travel times and overall efficiency, European election candidate Senator Lisa Chambers is advocating for ambitious upgrades to meet modern demands.

Said Senator Chambers: “An efficient and reliable rail service between Mayo and Dublin is essential for our economic growth, environmental sustainability and social cohesion. It is crucial that we invest in our infrastructure to ensure it meets the needs of our citizens and businesses both now and in the future and re-balance the economy between east and west by allowing businesses to run sub-offices in the west and enable their employees to relocate.”

She emphasised the importance of key rail stations in Mayo, such as Castlebar and Westport, as vital hubs for regional connectivity and economic development.

In addition to infrastructure upgrades, Senator Chambers stressed the necessity of reinstating basic catering services on the Mayo-Dublin line, which were discontinued during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Reintroducing basic catering services is vital for enhancing passenger comfort and convenience. Travellers deserve access to fundamental amenities during their journey,” she said.

At European level, Senator Chambers proposed that rail services should operate as loss leaders in every European country, including Ireland, to encourage public transport usage similar to recent initiatives taken in Germany to provide free travel, and that EU competition rules should be set aside to facilitate this.

“Affordable and efficient rail services are a strategic investment in our future. Operating these services as loss leaders will drive a significant shift from private car usage to public transport, helping us meet our sustainability targets and reduce congestion. To achieve this, EU competition rules need to be adjusted to allow for increased investment and support in rail infrastructure,” she explained.

Senator Chambers also proposed that Irish Rail be enabled to reduce rail fares by 20% through European-funded subsidies to initially fund the incentive for increased usage, providing regular commuters with substantial annual savings and increasing the incentive for others to choose rail services over car travel.

“As we have seen in air travel over the last 40 years, lower fares and more frequent and faster services will ultimately result in greater usage of rail services,” she stated.

Senator Chambers also suggested the addition of standing 'virtual meeting' rooms on trains, which could be booked in 30-minute slots at a small cost that would provide Irish Rail with an income stream from business travellers. These rooms would allow passengers to conduct business meetings while traveling, effectively transforming trains into mobile offices and utilising unused space on trains.

“Integrating virtual meeting spaces on our trains will cater to the needs of modern professionals, making rail travel a practical choice for business as well as leisure. This initiative aligns with the EU’s digital and environmental agendas, promoting a flexible and sustainable mode of transport,” she said.

Senator Chambers has written to the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, and requested a meeting to prioritise these enhancements to the Mayo-Dublin link.