Ger Walsh Column 10/11/16 : the chronicle.ie

Ger Walsh Column 10/11/16

| November 9, 2016

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Lack of passengers real problem for the trains

How many times have we seen headlines about the ‘end of the line’ as yet another report suggests that the rail service into Co. Wexford should effectively be ended?

Almost any time anyone is asked to look at the rail network in the country they seem to come to the conclusion that the trains to Co. Wexford should stop in Gorey and go no further.

As far back as the early 1980s a similar proposal was made, although at that stage the suggestion was to stop the trains in Arklow, if I remember correctly.

And every time such a report is published there is a chorus of complaints from politicians, this is followed by some kind of fudge, the danger passes, and as soon as it does all those politicians who were so vocal in their opposition to the closure go silent on the question of Wexford’s rail service again.

Instead of putting their heads back in the sand they should be asking why expert after expert comes to the conclusion that the rail service to the South East and Rosslare Europort should effectively be closed.

The reason they need to focus on this question is that you can take it as read that all these experts are not wrong. They are not putting the line between Gorey and Rosslare up for the chop just for the fun of it.

The reality is that the line is what Irish Rail would call ‘lightly used’. And if money is tight and numbers are not using the train service then it seems logical that something has to be done to change the situation.

There are two options. One is to get more customers and the other is to abandon the line. The option always put forward by the experts is closure and I can understand why. If you close the line down you have certainty, but you can never really be sure that you can increase passenger numbers.

That’s where the politicians and local authority must come in. If the line is to be retained then it will have to attract greater passenger numbers. If train travel to Dublin from Wexford is to be an attractive option then the quality of the service will have to be improved.

At the moment many parts of the line are of such poor quality that the train has to slow to a crawl on the route between Wexford and Enniscorthy.

Indeed, I have heard it said that rowing boats in the Slaney often appear as if they are travelling faster during the regatta season. Speeding up the trains would require track investment and there may be a reluctance to spend money on a line which is so lightly used.

However, this is a bit of a chicken and egg situation because without investment no improvements can be made and without improvements the service will remain unattractive.

However, apart from the journey times there are other improvements that could be made and some of them would not require a lot of money.

In Wexford town, for example, there is absolutely no parking around the station, despite the fact that Irish Rail owns a large amount of land in the area. This should be used to provide adequate parking for people who might want to use the train, both for long stay and for passenger drop off and collection.

Of course the other big issue is the timetable. While the evening service from Dublin is pretty good with three services between 4.40pm and 6.30pm., in the morning there is a train from Wexford town at just before 6am and another at 7.45am and that is that.

Three morning trains to match the evening services must be a first step towards improving the overall offering and getting more people onto the trains.

Some people argue that we simply do not have the population to support the rail service and we do have the problem that the track runs quite close to the sea so the catchment area is automatically cut in half.

However, there are still a sufficient number of people living in Co. Wexford to justify a decent train service. It would be good to see local councillors seizing the initiative and establishing some sort of committee that would bring all interested parties together with the aim of both improving the service and increasing passenger numbers.

Without such an initiative political protests are a bit of a nonsense.

 

Dangerous junction? So make the cars go faster

In the last issue we reported on the proposals from Transport Infrastructure Ireland for changes to speed limits on national roads in the county.

The limits cannot be altered without the approval of local councillors which is probably just as well because what has been suggested is about as off the wall as you could imagine.

The one which caught most people’s attention was the suggestion that the speed limit at Ferrycarrig should be increased from 60kph to 80kph. The junction at Ferrycarrig is one of the most dangerous in the entire county and it is dangerous at 60kph, never mind adding another third to the speed of the vehicles on the main road.

Most people who have knowledge of that area would be of the view that additional safety measure are required but the people at the transport authority have a different view. The reason, it appears, has nothing to do with road safety. They just looked at the map and decided that since it was not a built up area it did not require a 60kpg limit.

You see they want the limits to be of a uniform nature throughout the country. So if you are driving from Wexford to Kerry and you come across a 60kph speed limit you will immediately know you’re in a built up area.

I am not sure of the thinking behind this. Do those in charge at the roads authority imagine that if a motorist arrives in a 60kph zone and does not see houses and shops they will feel cheated or deflated?

Maybe they would, perhaps I am out of touch.

And then you have the case of Tagoat where they want to move the speed limit sign closer to the village so the junction for Our lady’s Island will be outside it. Another very clever move and one which Ger Carthy, a regular user of the junction, will fight tooth and nail.

Equally the notion that speed limits should be increased in other villages, like Ferns and Camolin as well as Oylegate, seems strange.

In any case all the proposals will go on display and out for public consultation before the end of the year so you can still have your say.

 

We were naive about roller coaster safety

The number of serious accidents at Fun Fairs and Theme Parks in recent times has been a bit frightening. Several of the incidents have happened at around the same time as the owners of Thorpe Park in the UK were convicted in court in respect of a serious accident there last year.

There was a time when we all thought that these high profile Theme Parks were perfectly safe, tested to the highest levels and maintained with safety at the top of the agenda.

We might have been a bit worried about some of the attractions at the carnival in the local field but we never really suspected that we were literally taking our lives in our hands when venturing onto some of those exotically named rides in the major parks.

Now it seems that we might have been safer in the local carnival than venturing onto some of these widely promoted attractions.

I remember years ago taking part in a promotional visit to Blackpool with the British Tourist Authority. As part of the visit we were introduced to the ‘Big One’ then the highest roller-coaster ride in the UK.

A couple of us agreed to take on this attraction (and I have a picture to prove it).

It was a thrilling experience. We climbed slowly up into the clouds and then dropped suddenly as if the earth had opened up underneath us. Truth be told it was also a bit scary but when we got back safely to the ground we were never going to admit that.

However, the really scary part is only becoming a reality now. Those big roller coasters, which we thought posed about as much danger as walking home from the pub on a Saturday night were really potentially lethal.

It only required some technician to have a bit of an off day or someone to switch the wrong button and we were history.

Would I take on a high rise roller coaster again? Absolutely not

 

Property Tax hike will not fix road problems

When members of the Co. Council decided to push up the rate of Property Tax in the county by 5% last month they did it to raise money for a variety of projects which the Council has in the pipeline, including the creation of a fund to repair some of the most minor rural roads where local communities come up with a share of the cash.

The additional property tax will not, however, bring any additional funds for the repair of rural roads in general, something which seems to have got lost in the translation as far as many rural dwellers are concerned.

I have many quite a few people recently who are looking forward to really big improvements in the roads next year thanks to the extra property tax they are about to pay.

They are about to be disappointed, very disappointed.

 

There’s more to a teacher’s day than meets the eye

I don’t propose to pass any comment on the pay demands of the Gardaí and Teachers except to express a little concern for teachers. As I listened to various representatives of the ASTI outline the stresses and strains of life as a secondary school teacher I began to become really concerned for them.

Like many others I thought they enjoyed long holidays and short working days, but that’s not the case at all. According to their representatives work only really beings when the classroom door closes.

They then have to take sacksful of copybooks home for correction and are working late into the night both to correct these and to prepare themselves for the next day’s classes.

It’s just as well they have long summer holidays because they must have no home life. While the rest of us are enjoying the latest TV series they are stuck in their books.

 

The dullest calendars in the world

This is the time of the year when various calendars are launched, football clubs, soap stars, singers, film stars etc. all have their own versions and they are very popular.

I came across a new one recently. Apparently until this year it was called ‘The Dull Men’s Club’ calendar, but for 2017 it has been expanded to include women as well.

So in this calendar Miss August is not some scantily clad nineteen year old. No its Pencil Enthusiast Dawn Walker, while Miss March is a seventy two year old barbed wire collector  while Amanda Hone (36) who is really attracted to brown Tourist Signs is also featured.

Leland Carson, who spend the best part of a year going around the UK to find these ladies said he was delighted to have found women with the dullest hobbies. ‘They are passionate about everyday unglamorous things’, he said.

Well I suppose that’s one way of putting it. I assume Mr Carson is a well-qualified candidate to appear in the calendar himself,

 

Ruby’s thumbs up for racecourse

It has been a bit of a tough year for Wexford Racecourse with the decision by the authorities to end flat racing at the track in the summer and continuing racegoer unease about the decision to change the direction of racing which was taken some time ago.

The fact that the horses now run in the opposite direction means that the finishing line is no longer in front of the stands, a rather unique situation and one which does not add to the public’s enjoyment of racing at the venue.

However, the reasoning behind the change in direction was always to make Wexford a better national hunt course.

The endorsement of the decision has been a while coming but the racecourse executive must have been thrilled at the end of their two day Bank Holiday fixture when no less than Ruby Walsh gave the course a big thumbs up.

He rode four winners over the two days and later described the new course as a proper jumping track. In his estimation it is now a very good quality chase course which will be music to the ears of those in charge because such an endorsement from Walsh is likely to encourage owners and trainers to send more quality horses to Wexford in the future.

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