More than 6 years ago FIE published a wide ranging critique of the destruction of Ireland called 'The Image and The Reality'. Recently, a reader in America drew our attention to the article, speaking of his own sadness.

‘I have seen the rape of its haunting beauty leaving it less and less the lovely lady it used to be'. Read the original article with the reader's comment at the end.


5.1 Background

Traditionally Irish buildings had timber up and down sliding sashes, which,

apart from being an attractive part of their design appearance could be

easily exited in an emergency evacuation situation. However, the major

proportion of older Irish buildings and the majority of new buildings have

been fitted with top hung uPVC windows with the upper section only,

swinging outwards.

5.2 Extent

Top hung uPVC windows now predominate in:

* older hotels in city and town centres;

* Bed and Breakfast and hostel accommodation in older converted

buildings in town and city centres;

* Farmhouse accommodation, including the majority of the properties

marketed by the "Irish Farm Holidays Association", which are in fact

suburban type bungalows;

* the major part of the part of the accommodation marketed by the

"Family Homes of Ireland";

* the overwhelming amount of Bed and Breakfast accommodation in rural


5.3 The Problem

Irish Department of the Environment Regulations are completely inadequate

in addressing the safety of B&B and Farmhouse accommodation. While, hotel

and hostel accommodation is covered by extensive regulations, these fail to

cover the issue of evacuation through windows in emergency situations.

5.4 The Risks

Top hung opening uPVC windows, which are generally double glazed with mock

Georgian sub division strips are impossible to get out through and

extremely difficult to break in an emergency evacuation situation even at

ground floor level. Breaking sealed double glazed units is difficult with

a chair because of the cushioning effect of the air gap between the leaves

of glass.

The majority of tourist accommodation with fire trap type windows has been

approved by the Irish Tourist Board (Bord Failte).

You are advised to check independently that accommodation does not contain

top hung uPVC windows.

Contact Department of the Environment at 01 6793377

5.5 EU Funded uPVC Hotels

Inexplicably a number of Hotels have benefited from EU funding under

the current Tourism Operational Programme without any attempt to enforce

quality control standards on the nature of the work and the treatment of

the buildings grant funded.

Two prime examples are the Commodore in Cobh which has received £57.833

and the Blue Haven in Kinsale which has received £100,000 in the year

ended 31st. Dec. 1996. Even if the uPVC windows had not been directly

installed as part of the EU funding any grant for the buildings should have

been made conditional on their removal. The fact that grant money can be

allocated for buildings in breach of acceptable planning, safety,

environmental and heritage design standards raises serious concern at the

administration of EU funding.



Before booking accommodation:

* check in advance that the building does not contain uPVC top hung


* when seeking farmhouse accommodation make sure it is a genuine

traditional farm;

* avoid rural bungalow type breakfast accommodation as the majority

of this is uPVC;

* if your only accommodation option is a room with top hung uPVC

windows, insist on having a hatchet or other appropriate instrument for

emergency evacuation.



County Carlow

Carlow- Dolmen Hotel

Royal Hotel

County Cavan

Bailiebrorough- Bailie Hotel

Virginia- Sharkey's Hotel

County Clare

Ballyvaughan- Hylands Hotel

Ennis- Old Ground Hotel

Kilkee- Halpins Hotel

Lahinch- Aberdeen Arms Hotel

Atlantic Hotel

County Cork

Cork City - Ambassador Hotel

Glenvera Hotel

Imperial Hotel

Lough Mahon House Tivole

Bandon- Munster Arms

Clonakilty- Imperial Hotel

Cobh- Commodor Arms

Glengariff- Casey's Hotel

Kinsale- Actons Hotel

Blue Haven Hotel

Youghal- Walter Raleigh Hotel

County Donegal

Ballybofey- Jackson's Hotel

Buncrana- Lake of Buncrana

Glenties- Highlands Hotel

Greencastle- Castle Inn

County Dublin

Dublin- Aisling Hotel

Aberdeen Hotel

Beddington Guesthouse

Castle Hotel (part only)

North Star Hotel

Orwell Lodge Hotel

County Galway

Cliften- Dun Ri Guesthouse

Galway City- Great Southern Hotel

Imperial Hotel

Loughrea- O'Dea's Hotel

Oughtrerard- Eldon's Hotel

Roundstone- Roundstone House Hotel

County Kerry

Ballybunion- Marine Links Hotel

Dingle- Alpine House

Captain's House

Glenbeigh- Village House

Kenmare- Lansdowne Arms Hotel

Killarney- Arbutus Hotel

Great Southern Hotel

McSweeney Arms Hotel

Park Place Hotel

Tralee- Abbeygate Hotel

Brandon Court Hotel

Grand Hotel

Imperial Hotel.

County Kildare

Ballymore Eustace- Ardenode Hotel

County Kilkenny

Kilkenny City- Troysgate House

Kilford Arms

Lacken House

Freshford- Kilkenny House

County Laois

Portarlington- East End Hotel

County Leitrim

Ballinamore- Riversdale Farm Guesthouse

County Limerick

Adare- Dunraven Arms (new block to rear)

Limerick City- Broadstreet Hostel

Hanratty's Hotel

Kilree Lodge,

County Longford

County Louth

Drogheda- Westcourt Hotel

County Mayo

Ballina- Bartra House Hotel

Kiltimagh- Cill Aodain Hotel

County Meath

County Monaghan

Monaghan- Westenra

County Offaly

County Roscommon

County Sligo

Sligo- Clarence Hotel

Tower Hotel

County Tipperary

Cahir- Cahir House Hotel

Carrick-on-Suir- Orchard Guesthouse

Clonmel- Clonmel Arms Hotel

Tipperary Town- Royal Hotel

County Waterford

Waterford City- Dooley's Hotel

Grand Hotel

Tramore- Majestic Hotel

O'Shea's Hotel

County Westmeath

Athlone- Royal Hoey Hotel

County Wexford

Enniscorthy- Treacy's Hotel

Rosslare- Danby Lodge

Alisa Lodge

County Wicklow

Arklow- Bridge Hotel


Around the country spiralling investment is taking place in the name of

tourism, fuelled by a combination of EU structural grants, urban renewal

tax incentives, seaside holiday resort tax incentives and BES (Business

Expansion Schemes) , along with the general rip of the economic boom.

3.1 Fake Tourist Shopping Villages

Given that tourism is now the sacred cow of Ireland, any investment that

presses the magic buzzword, jobs and tourism, is automatically seen as


This may apply when a particular investment is, in fact, not a tourist

facility at all, but may even, in the long-term, contribute to the

destruction of Ireland's genuine tourist image. Nothing better epitomises

this than the proposed "tourist shopping village" near Goffs on the Naas

dual carriageway in County Kildare. This is part of an international chain

type operation, providing a mall type retail outlet for discounted

international designer goods, the majority of which would be by definition

imported, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karen, etc. What is so wonderful about this

is, or what should be so particularly beneficial to Irish tourism is

difficult to imagine. It makes no sense for Ireland to spend a fortune on

roads infrastructure to encourage visitors from the Japano-Euro-American

industrial world to come to Ireland to buy yet more of the sort of goods in

the sort of malls which they have more than enough of in their own


Particularly bizarre about the Kill facility is the fact that a director of

the development company, Padraig O'hUig??n, is also the former chairman, and

still a director of Bord Failte the Irish Tourist Board. To suggest that

this poses a conflict of interest would be an understatement. Equally

curious is the fact that the Bord Failte, although a Prescribed Body under

the Planning Acts, has failed to make any comment on the matter. But then,

this is not surprising at all, given An Bord Failte's virtual national

abrogation of its Prescribed Body status and active collusion in the

plastic bungalow building B&B business.

3.2 Golf Courses.

The golf tourist is the fantasy of the tourist marketing guru, because of

his higher spending profile and higher age group, a big difference from

those Euro-hostelling back-packers, who spend so irritatingly little.

To satisfy the insatiable needs of this great recreational religion, golf

course fever is running rampant. However, in a competitive market, a new

golf course development has to market itself as being something special.

New courses must be located in sand dunes against the rolling Atlantic

breakers, lakes with spectacular mountain backdrops, or the grounds of

historic houses and castles. Among the most controversial has been that

developed by the brother of Dick Spring, TD in Castleisland Co. Kerry,

resulting in an ongoing controversy over the rare European habitat of the

natterjack toad. Plans simmer in Killarney for a proposed swap, by which a

slice of the Bourne Vincent National Park, part of the Muckross Estate, and

the greatest single treasure ever bequeathed to the nation, would be

abrogated, with the developer giving some woodland area to the National

Park in return, conveniently for him, as it would have no development

potential because of its location.

Most striking of all, is the glossy promotional marketing for the Doonbeg

golf course development in Clare. The brochure made a main selling point

of the fact that this was one of the "last such sand dune sites in Western

Europe available", what the report, of course, failed to mention was that

such sites in other European countries would not be available and would

have an inalienable status as wildlife habitats. This wonderful windswept

stretch of the Clare coast with the benefit of EU, Bord Failte directed

operational programme for tourism, funding to a tune of £2.4 million is

going to two 18 hole and one 9 hole golf course with lots of residential

development, holiday cottages and ninety bed-roomed hotel and of course,

all the massive road system, car parking, lighting sewerage and refuse

which that would generate.

A full investigation is needed to explain the extent and justification of

Bord Failte administered EU funding of golf courses. Among those

substantially funded, are the very exclusive Straffan in County Kildare,

and the totally private Luttrelstown in County Dublin.

3.3 Heritage And Interpretative Centres.

These have been the wonders of the last seven years. Fuelled by a

massive EU operation programme led by the Office of Public Works( now the

state heritage service Duchas ) and Bord Failte, every county now has a

Heritage Centre of some sort or another, many of them massive investments

of dubious economic return.

It would be unfair to praise or to criticise unevenly, many have

secured worthy uses for worthy buildings and provide genuinely needed focal

point visitor attractions. But others, particularly the more controversial

of the OPW group have been lethal in their insensitivity with the ongoing

saga of the Burren and Wicklow National Parks remaining unresolved.

The experience from National Parks in other countries shows that the only

viable strategy is to focus visitor numbers around existing settlements and

to minimise the impact of tour buses and mass tourism in the main national

park area in order to preserve the very qualities which the park embodies.

For those who really wish to experience the qualities of an area, cycling

and walking are the best option and the most precious landscape of the

country should not be sacrificed for the fleeting glimpse of the tour bus

zombie going through the experience of being led to hotel to tour stop,

shop to tour stop, shop to hotel again with a bit of passing scenery

between, which phenomenon should be best witnessed on what should be

renamed the "Bus Ring of Kerry". Many of the heritage centres, such as

the one in Dunchaoin, are shut up and bleak places in winter, and others,

such as Kilrush, a positive architectural embarrassment with their plastic

windows, the very antithesis of heritage.

A heritage or interpretative centre is a wonderful excuse for the State,

tourist or development interest to simulate a concern or appreciation of

heritage and environment. By packaging up whole lot of little red dots on

the map as bits of heritage to see, it means that the real environment of

the rest of the country becomes non-heritage, and the real landscapes,

wildlife habitats, archaeological legacy and national historic building

stock, can continue to be flushed down the tubes.

3.4 Holiday Villages.

Following the "success" of the urban renewal developer tax write off areas,

many rural counties and TDs became aggrieved that they were being left out

of the action. Hence, the brilliant strategy in the name of tourism

investment was the Enda Kenny seaside resorts tax incentive scheme,

including the re-invention of that fine planned town Westport in County

Mayo, in Mr. Kenny's own constituency as a "seaside resort". The principle

is the same as the urban renewal areas, a designated chunk of land,

allocated for development, which in this case had to be tourist related,

either housing, hotel or retail, with a condition that any housing had to

be short-term rental.

In practice, it simply made whole chunks of the Irish country as new tax

investment vehicles. When an area is give tax designation, it takes on an

economic force of its own right. Land values rise and the property is

acquired by investors or syndicates seeking to launder money through the

tax system. The scheme is introduced without any strategic plans for the

designated towns and the predictable haphazard results are now all too

obvious to see and are being bewailed in Achill, Enniscrone and Kilkee of

clusters of new white villages plonked arbitrarily here and there in the

landscape failing to reflect in any way the process of organic growth. The

one hope which was expressed for the holiday scheme that it would act as a

counterfoil to continued ribbon development has proved unfounded, since

ribbon bungalows remain rampant, and in large sections of Galway, such as

Renvyle and Roundstone, second homes now predominate. When local

conservation interests sought to appeal against the landscape and habitat

damaging scheme for Inchydoney Island near Clonakilty, the result was

locally orchestrated furore in the name of employment.

3.5 Tourist Accommodation

We are told, as if in a state of panic, that Ireland simply does not have

enough capacity to meet the hotel bed requirement which its wonderfully

burgeoning tourist infrastructure requires.

One of the most welcome developments of recent years has been the

development of a whole network of hidden Ireland type and country house

hotels, and some very sensitive conversions of country houses into discreet

good quality accommodation which is attracting a high spending and

discriminating international clientele. At the other end of the scale the

development of a huge new network of hostels has made the country

accessible for the adventurous budjet traveller.

The unexplained tourist accommodation phenomenon is the rampant growth

of B & B rural ribbon development plastic dormer bungalow.

It is difficult to understand what sort of clientele the vast majority of

older hotels are seeking to attract to judge by the grotesque quality of

typical refurbishment and alteration. Ireland has a great legacy of 19th

century hotels in the major cities and towns and from the days of the Great

Southern Railway Hotel chain. Yet most of these are currently suffering a

complete failure to appreciate their architectural quality and are covered

in dross and tat, including the sea of plastic windows. Among the most

notable casualties are the Great Southern Hotels in Killarney and Galway,

the noble Classical fronted Imperial Hotel in Cork, the historic Hearne's

Hotel in Clonmel, the Westenra in Monaghan and Old Ground in Ennis. The

18th century Cruise's in Limerick was a casualty to urban renewal, and is

now replaced by a chain store street, and development of Jury's Inn and

multi-storey car park type schemes of the dreariest architectural quality

in other parts of the city, a bizarre contradiction in the administration

of urban renewal.

3.6 The Marketing Triumph - The Big Event

There is a current obsession to lure major international TV sports events

to Ireland in the strange assumption that this will somehow be of enormous

benefit to tourism. The world equestrian games fiasco has been the first

attempt, but now Ireland is hosting part of the 1998 Tour de France, and in

the next century, the Ryder Cup. It is difficult to see what benefit there

is to the country of subjecting large areas to the complete chaos and motor

car tailbacks which these events will bring. It is also difficult to

understand the basis of the marketing hype, given that these are all the

sort of events that take place in other places anyhow, and why should the

millions around the world watching them on television suddenly say "Gosh!

It's being held in Ireland this year! Let's go there!". All they will see

on their screens are the same sort of shots of cyclists going up mountains

or pink or lemon pullovered people plugging balls in holes, which could be


Such events bring chaos and very little benefit to the population in the



Contaminated Drinking Water In Ireland

4.1 Background

A large number of State-run and private drinking water supplies throughout

Ireland have become contaminated by E. Coli, Clostridia, Fecal Stretococci

and other bacteria and parasites in the last 5 years. It is unsave to

drink this water or use it for personal hygiene. The risks of infection are

now significant

4.2 Extent

Thre are some 749 contaiminated water supplies variously affected at

present, both inrural and urban areas, including parts of Dublin. 49% of

all national drinking water supplies are not bacteriologically

contaminated. These contaminated water supplies are to be found in every

county in Ireland

4.3 The Risks

Some of the potential bacterial contaminants like E Coli 0157 and

Cryptosporidium, have a low infective doe (less than 10 organisms compared

with 50,000 organisms for Salmonella) so only a small amount of the

affected water is requred to cause infection.

E. Coli and Cryptosporidium produce extremely virulent toxins, which can be


Be particularly vigilant with small children, the elderly or anyone with a

compromised immune system.

Cryptosporidium is not destroyed by disinfection or chlorination and

potentially survive on plates and cutlery for long periods after washing in

contaminated water.

4.4 Checking the Drinking Water in Your Area

Check the drinking water quality in the area you are staying by calling at

the offices of the local Council Sanitary Services. ASk for hte

bacteriological drinking water quality results for the area. If any of the

rsults show any coliform or faecal coliform results, you should assume that

the water in the area is unfirt for human consumption.

The EU and the World Helath orangisation maximum acceptable level for both

Coliforms and E. Coli is zero. unfortunately the Irish Governmane is

currently ignoring these standards in practice.

National Results for all parts of the country can be obtained from the

Environmental Protection Agency's publication "The Quality of Drinking

Water in Ireland"

Call EPA on 01-6674474



Whilst travelling in affected areas:

* Drink only reliable bottled water;.

* Do not use ice.

* Sterilise/wash bayb bottles etc. with sterile water. DO NOt use

tap water.

* Do not use affecte waster to wash yourself, you food or your

kitchen equipment unless the water has been kept at boiling point for at

least 10 minutes. Note: Boiling affected water does not destroy


* Do not use affected water for brushing teeth. Use carefully around

eyes and mouth when washing, if it must be used.

* Particular care should be taken when taking casual breaksin your

journey. Many areas are not yet aware of the contamination risks.

* Be particularly careful with young children, the elderly and the

sick. Infection can be fatal.

* If in doubt, use bottled water.

Report any abdominal pains, sickness or diarrhoea to a medical practitioner

im- Mediately

Affected area are listed on the Web.



2.1 The Cost of the Car

The motor car is slightly over 100 years old. So far motor car accidents

have killed more than 25 million people, and have injured and disabled 600

million people. In Ireland, over 400 people die annually on the roads and

over 20 are permanently consigned to wheelchairs. Road accidents also cost

an enormous amount of money - £653 million in Ireland in 1994.

The combustion of petrol in the motor car produces carbon dioxide (CO2) and

water. Every car produces four times its weight in CO2 per year. The

build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere is causing the world to warm up and cars

contribute 20 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

Petroleum is a fossil fuel a limited precious resource. We are burning the

Earth's fossil fuel 100,000 times faster than the resource is being

replenished. Almost all petrol burned by motor cars can be considered to be

to be wasted. The average weight of a saloon car is one tonne. The

average weight of an occupant is less than 100kg, so 90 per cent of the

fuel is used to move the car and only 10 per cent to move the occupant.

Because of the various inefficiencies only 10 per cent of the fuel is used

productively to overcome drag, which means that only 1 per cent of the fuel

is used to carry the passenger and 99 per cent is wasted.

2.2 Glen Of The Downs Crossroads.

No one location better epitomises the cross-roads at which Ireland

currently stands. It can continue to spiral blindly into the globalised

economy, consumer disposable , agrochemical industry, motor and heavy goods

vehicle transport dependent system into which the post industrialised world

is engulfing itself. Alternatively its still strong legacy of local

economies and remains of a once great railway system can provide the

foundation for real Sustainable Development.

The country boreens are for the tourist brochures only, as the major

part of the current tranche of European Structural Funds are put into a

massive road building programme, whose effect has only for the first time

provoked any real environmental concern by the road widening through the

Glen of the Downs. At the same time, the Irish rail system, which was one

of the finest in Europe at the time of the foundation of the State, is now

an under invested skeleton. For an independent tourist to travel around

Ireland by public transport, and particularly on the coast, is a difficult

experience and particularly one who wishes to escape the air conditioned

experience of the endless Bus Ring of Kerry tour .

The Glen of the Downs, one of the most evocative names in Ireland, is a

great glacial cut through the landscape, and one of the few areas of

surviving regenerating broad leaf forests in the country. It is also on a

EUROROUTE the officially designated European network of roads, which are

deemed to represent the core of the transport system throughout the Union.

The policy of the European Union willingly abetted by successive road

worshipping Irish governments, is to provide a motorway link between the

container and roll on roll off ports of Rosslare and Larne, tied into a C

Ring Route around Dublin with access to the Port. From the hub of Dublin is

then stretched the whole series of National Primary Routes, so that

ultimately, the dream of Padraig Flynn will be realised, and the road to

Kerry, as well as Castlebar will be of the same capacity, scale and

construction standard as the Newbridge by-pass which was the first section

of the future national motorway network to be completed in Ireland and

rendered the scale of the existing Naas dual carriageway redundant. Other

motorway sections all across the country have since been completed,

including the massive Dunleer by-pass and others such as the Arklow By pass

near completion. Within the next few years, the pieces will all start to

add up and Ireland will suddenly be like everywhere else with its own big

car and lorry choked motorways.

2.3 Moving the Bottleneck.

The effect of the Glen of the Downs scheme is part of a plan to drag the

country into the dreary motor car domination of places like Belgium. It

will also expose Wicklow and Arklow to increased dormitory town road

dependent commuter first time home buyer development and thus generate

increased traffic levels defeating the very purpose for which the road is

EU funded.

This dormitory traffic is already generating a huge arc of congestion

funnelling around Dublin from Drogheda, Navan and Newbridge and now in an

increasingly wider arc from Dundalk, Mullingar and Portlaoise. In order to

get on the housing ladder and find a place suitable to bring up children

couples are forced to accept longer and longer car dependent travel


2.4 The Statistics.

If anybody thinks that Dublin, in particular, and Ireland, in general, is

already a very much motor car dependent society, then the future plans

which the car manufacturing, petro-chemical industry, road haulage and road

construction sectors have for us are revealing. While in this current

economic "boom", Ireland may have reached record levels of car ownership,

it still has one of the lowest percentage ownership rates in Europe.

According to the latest figures available, France, Western Germany, Italy

and Great Britain, all have fifty private cars or more per hundred people.

Iceland, Switzerland, Belgium and Austria, have between forty and fifty

cars per hundred people. Norway, Finland, Holland, Spain and Denmark,

along with Northern Ireland (thirty-six) have between thirty and forty cars

per hundred people. The Republic of Ireland has 29.

The motor lobby regards this as not good enough. The Motoring

correspondent for the Sunday Business Post, Fergus O'Dowd epitomises this

attitude. Reflecting the grovelling Third World mentality, which

characterises Ireland's general begging bowl attitude for foreign

multi-national investment. Mr. O'Dowd goes on to plead that "the Celtic

Tiger still has a lot of ground to make up, featuring in the group of

countries with between twenty and thirty cars per hundred people. In this

group Ireland, with twenty-nine cars per hundred is along side Cypress,

Portugal, Greece, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia." Clearly, Mr.

O'Dowd, and, indeed, all his motoring correspondent compatriots would

regard this as some sort of national tragedy that Ireland should be still

alongside what he is implicitly claiming to be a second, or even third,

league of European countries.

To met Mr. O'Dowd's vision of a serious European country, then we must

start having lots more cars to match up with the middle and top league

boys, and, of course all of the exciting by-passes, under-passes, tunnels,

Euroroutes and National Primary Routes, which this will require. Not even

to mention the massive areas of car parks, multi-storey, underground and

garden covering.

2.5 The Neglect of the Railways

It is forgotten that Ireland at the beginning of this century, had, in relation to the density of its population, one of the most impressive rail

systems in Europe, with lines stretching all the way to the perimeters of

the country, Clonakilty, Valencia, Achill and the furthest reaches of


Forgotten amid all of this, near the Glen of the Downs, parallel to the

Dublin/Rosslare Wexford route in which it stands, is one of the oldest rail

lines in the country. It is a meandering route, which follows a longer

distance than that of the comfortable road route from Dublin to Rosslare,

because it takes in both Wicklow and Arklow, and includes, what must be,

some of the most scenic stretches of the Irish rail system through the Vale

of Avoca. Originally it had branches serving Aughrim and Woodenbridge and

at the former Macmine junction a link to Waterford via New Ross.

Because of the complete under-investment in this route, the freight

trains, known as "liners", which once carried goods, no longer use the

line. CIE, itself, closed the Dublin/Rosslare, rail rate freight division

and replaced it with road vehicles. Even for the passenger service for

Wexford/Rosslare, as those who experience its leisurely service will know,

travel and journey times are no faster than they were in the days of the

great steam express locomotives of fifty years ago, and, indeed in some

respects are actually slower, because along areas of the line where the

train has speed restrictions, because of poor track maintenance. Recent

Roscommon and Kerry track subsidence caused derailments have highlighted

this issue, since the limited investment which has gone into the Irish

Railway system has been directed to the Dublin/Cork and Dublin/Belfast


2.6 Relative Travel Times Between Road and Rail.

Forty years ago before the knife of Todd Andrews, Ireland still maintained

most of the great railway system which it inherited on Independence, though

a number of the peripheral western lines and central branches had closed.

For most longer journeys, rail travel was faster than car. This fatal

balance, the attractiveness of rail, in time terms over road, suddenly

slipped in the early 60s with the savage cuts of what were the, admittedly

hugely loss making, peripheral and branch lines by Andrews and the real

beginning of road investment, symbolised by that great symbol of progress

at the time, the Naas dual carriageway.

The case of Waterford encapsulates the whole issue. Forty years ago it

stood in one of the largest and most complex rail hubs in the country.

From its north bank railway station, five lines spread out fan-like towards

Dungarvin, Limerick, Kilkenny/Dublin, New Ross and Rosslare. On the south

bank, just outside the walls of the - Mediaeval city, was the independent

seven mile rail route to Tramore.

From its five platforms, a whole series of journeys could be originated

from Waterford on any morning with a good system of connections and changes

to get to Cork, Galway or anywhere with reasonable efficiency. By the mid

60s, the balance was fatally tipped, passenger services were lost on three

of the lines. Instead of two morning Dublin trains an express and a "slow"

stopping at all of the country halts, one took their place. The closure

of the halts as part of the general Andrews Programme, smaller places in

Kilkenny, like Kilmacow, Mullinavat, Ballyhale and Gowran, meant the demise

of the slow train, and the move over of dependence of large catchment areas

to the motor car.

By the mid 60s, the construction of the Naas dual carriageway suddenly

started to chip into the relative distance between road and rail travel

time. The new diesel locomotives were not significantly more efficient in

time than the old steam express service, because of the speed restriction

on the very much curving railway line between Waterford and Kildare. At

that stage, a car journey from Waterford to Naas was still a drive through

leafy, tree-lined country roads, with winding bends and the prospect of

being trapped for huge intervals of time behind slow moving creamery vans

or other such users of the road.

As the 60s and 70s progressed, a clear strategy became obvious for

eliminating the major bends along the roads, on the grounds of safety and

enhanced speed. This has been followed by the ring road and by-pass

programme, which now means that, outside of peak traffic conditions, a

motor car journey from Waterford to Dublin may be done in under two hours,

whereas the rail journey is not much faster than the original 1940s steam

express time of two hours and twenty minutes, because it take a route

including Kilkenny and Carlow ten miles longer than the road journey via

Carlow only. The continuous track welding done on the stretch of double

line, between Kildare and Heuston Station, has not significantly affected

the equation.

Railway passenger numbers, and possibility of getting a seat on a train on

a typical journey or finding a half empty carriage, have remained

relatively stable over the thirty year period, with the only increase being

at weekends, a factor caused by student mobility to the Regional Technical

Colleges and other institutions. But at the same time, the level of long

distance users of motor cars has increased hugely disproportionately to a

factor effectively absorbing all of the increased transport mobility demand

for the vastly more complex and mobile society which has developed over the

last thirty years. This disproportionate equation is fatal, and is clearly

worsening. Each new by-pass and each new stretch of dual carriageway

accelerates the process that bit more.

The Ballybrophy, Roscrea , Nenagh, Limerick line hangs on by a thread. On a

typical day a large Diesel and guards van heating tender will flank a

single carriage taking no more than a handful of passengers. Yet at the

same time on the road parallel the thunderous stream of traffic is incessant.