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Railwatch 075 - April 1998

Boom time in Ireland

Irish rail has seen an enormous increase in patronage over the past 20 years. The number of people travelling has doubled from four to eight million.

The downside is that there is overcrowding, for example on the 150-mile Dublin to Cork route. One reason for this is that there has been a 50% cut in the number of carriages on the entire network.

"We have a lot of people travelling," said Ted Corcoran of Iarnr?d ?ireann. "traffic has increased by 5% every year for several years."

Having suffered from a chronic lack of investment 15 years ago, the national rail network is now seen by the government as a transport system worthy of investment, said Donal Musgrave of the Cork Examiner.

IE can boast not one fatal accident in the past six years, a time when thousands have been killed on Ireland's roads.

With some key line reopenings - such as Cork to Middleton - even more people could be attracted to the network.

The Belfast-Dublin route was comprehensively upgraded in a £123 million scheme partly funded by Europe. Level crossings have been automated and a TGV ambience is said to have come with French-built trains.

In Dublin, discussions are proceeding on plans for a new light rail and an underground system.

There is also an ambitious plan from a British company to build a £14 billion 56-mile rail tunnel between Britain and Ireland to cut the London-Dublin journey time to three and a half hours. It would be the world's longest underwater tunnel.

A Holyhead-Dublin link could be viable if a quarter of the cost was met by the two governments and the European Union, according to Gareth Davies of the Symonds Group. There are other ways to improve mainland rail links to Ireland, such as reopening the Dumfries-Stranraer line.

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