Council calls for reversal of service cutbacks at M3 Parkway rail in emergency motion

Irish Rail and the National Transport Authority (NTA) came in for stinging criticism at Monday’s meeting of Meath County Council, following revisions which severely curtails the service to the Dunboyne and M3 Parkway stations.

An emergency motion was brought to Monday’s council meeting, proposed by Cllr Maria Murphy and seconded by Cllr Gerry O’Connor, highlighting the curtailing of services by Irish Rail.

Cllr Murphy stated: “Irish Rail had a revised train timetable for the period of the Covid-19 lockdown, which they have further revised from 29th June with changes to Dunboyne services to take effect from 4th July until further notice. This revised timetable has a serious effect on train services from the M3 Parkway as there are no services between M3 Parkway and Clonsilla on Saturdays ans Sundays,” she said.

“There is also no off-peak services from Monday to Friday, leaving large gaps,” she added. “Trains are only running at peak times so there is no train leaving M3 Parkway between 10.30am and 4.35pm. The last training leaving M3 Parkway towards Clonsilla is 7.40pm and the last train arriving in the M3 Parkway from Clonsilla is 8.04pm.

She continued: “I feel strongly that this is a serious downgrading of the services and it will impact on the viability of the M3 Parkway and our aim to extend the train service to Navan. This decision has to be reversed, and we can’t let Irish Rail and the NTA away this this. It affects not only Dunboyne but all the other commuter areas like Ratoath and Dunshaughlin.

“All the DART services have resumed and there are only two other rural rail services curtailed, in Tipperary and Waterford. Dunboyne is the biggest affected.

“At a time when we need all our capacity on transport services due to social distancing Irish Rail is forcing passengers to use the services within a narrower window which will place more strain on the services.”

Cllr O’Connor agreed that the M3 Parkway line was the main artery for commuters from the rest of the county.

“If we are serious and strong and steadfast, as we have outlined in our county development plans, in relation to the need for a Dublin to Navan rail line, then we cannot sit quietly by and say nothing and allow the service to be downgraded,” he stated.

Cllr Joe Fox, who worked as an auctioneer in Dunboyne for many years, said there has been a deliberate attempt to downgrade the line over many years.

He said that the Dunboyne link was a showcase one which should have been promoted over the years, instead of attempts to downgrade it.

“You now have the Luas Cross-City, with a connection at Broombridge,” he pointed out. “You can get across the city to St Stephen’s Green or wherever – it can transform travel from Meath into the city.”

He suggested that control be taken off “all these fancy bodies like the Dublin Transportation Authority and the NTA, accountable to nobody, who come down here and gives us platitudes every so often” and handed over to the local authority. “We need to win this battle, or we can forget about the line to Navan.”

Cllr Alan Tobin said that the service needed to maintain capacity and that the objective on the development plan of a line to Navan needed to be pursued, with spurs off to Ratoath and Ashbourne, and on to the airport.

Cllr Nick Killian called it a cost-cutting exercise by Irish Rail.

“What bugs me is the disingenuous conversation Anne Graham had with us as head of the NTA and the supports she had for the rail link to Dublin.

He suggested that the Minister for Transport be included in the motion, and that pressure be out on all Meath public representatives to support the council on the issue.

Cllr Damien O’Reilly suggested bringing the park and ride to Dunshaughlin, as population figures in Navan meant the rail line to there was a ‘dead duck’, while Cllr Brian Fitzgerald stated that “we have been trying to convince Irish Rail and the NTA that they are actually running down the service from the day it started.”

“It’s fine to say you can get off at Broombridge, but in reality you have to go to Clonsilla, get off the train and get on to another one.

“On a day that there is a match in Croke Park, you cannot get a train from Dunboyne to Dublin. You have to change at Clonsilla and get onto a crowded train from Maynooth - the same on the way back.”

The council passed a motion calling on the Minister for Transport, NTA and Irish Rail to restore the M3 Parkway to Clonsilla service which is currently not operating on Saturdays and Sundays, and to review the large gaps in the off peak services from Monday to Friday.

An NTA spokesperson this week told the Meath Chronicle that existing services on the M3 Parkway are seeing very low patronage. "However, Iarnród Éireann and NTA are continuing to keep demand levels under daily review as we build towards a full restoration of services," he says.

"Iarnród Éireann, following the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions, introduced revised and reduced schedules from 30th March. These were approved by the NTA as part of wider revisions to public transport services."

The spokesperson continued: "The company has reviewed schedules and demand levels, in conjunction with the NTA, as the Reopening Roadmap has unfolded, which has seen enhanced schedules reintroduced across the network.

However, a reduced service is continuing to operate on all routes except for DART. With new measures in phase three seeing public transport operating at 50% capacity, in line with face coverings being made mandatory, this is ensuring those who wish to travel can do so. Notwithstanding that demand has increased, it remains significantly below normal demand levels, at 20-25% of previous year figures."

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