AS so often happens when there is heavy rain, the railway line between Ennis and Limerick is closed due to flooding and Iarnród Éireann have said it will be at least six weeks until it reopens.
In the interim Iarnród Éireann say there will be bus transfers operating, at scheduled train times, and they will also serve Sixmilebridge. Train services between Ennis and Galway will remain as normal.
In a statement on Tuesday Iarnród Éireann said; “The line has flooded following a significant increase in water levels at Ballycar Lough due to the recent sustained heavy rainfall, and the slow draining nature of the karst landscape in the area. Should the recent rainfall patterns persist, this will extend significantly the duration of the closure of the rail line.”
The statement also said; “Iarnród Éireann had raised the track level by 60 centimetres at Ballycar in 2003 to mitigate against the effects of flooding. However, the current flood levels are at least 50 centimetres over the rail head and rising, resulting in the suspension of services since February 2.”
Speaking to the Clare Champion Barry Kenny of Iarnród Éireann said that coming up with a solution to the regular flooding problem was a matter for the OPW. “It’s an issue that is there for a while and the area that requires work isn’t railway land and we have said before that it’s something the OPW would have the power to do. In terms of general flooding issues at the moment there is a need for a regional and national assessment to look at what flood alleviation works are needed.
“We wouldn’t be in a position to raise it further because of land acquisition that would be required. Ultimately to remove the threat there needs to be flood alleviation works done in that area and there also needs to be works near Newmarket on Fergus.”
However, in the past the OPW have said responsibility lies with Iarnród Éireann and that it would be the primary beneficiary of flood mitigation measures.
Clare TD Joe Carey said that the closure is very disappointing. “It is of real concern that flooding along the Ennis to Limerick line is now likely to see the service withdrawn for a period of up to 6 weeks, as indicated by Irish Rail. This is hugely frustrating for all those who rely on the rail link to get to work and go about their day-to-day business, not to mention visitors who arrive here expecting this service.”
He said that efforts should be made to find a solution to the issue. “This is a complex problem, which requires an integrated approach to solving it. With this in mind, I have raised the matter with Minister Varadkar and have asked that his Department would facilitate a round table discussion with a view to coming up with a plan to finally overcome the flooding issues at Ballycar. I am concerned at the reputational damage being done to this service by extended periods of closure of the line. This will dent the confidence of weekly and daily commuters who have come to rely on this excellent service.”