I have written to the Minister for Transport to urge him to investigate the creation of ‘community rail partnerships’ in Ireland, with a pilot project being established along the Maynooth line.
The potential closure of level crossings along the Maynooth line, and their replacement with potentially very large bridges, has been an issue of concern for residents along the line in recent years. In the winter of 2013-14, an attempt was made by Irish Rail and Fingal County Council to close the Porterstown Road level crossing and replace it with a pedestrian bridge. The moves were strongly opposed at the time and eventually, the plan was withdrawn. Residents at other level crossing points, like the Coolmine Road and Ashtown level crossings, are now concerned about potential moves to shut level crossings and replace them with large, unsightly bridge. The recently published Draft Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-35 outlines that the closure of level crossings is still a goal (p49).
The botched attempt to close the Porterstown Road level crossing should serve as a model of how not to deal with these issues, and it is hoped that the relevant State agencies have learned from this experience. Any engineering solutions proposed in conjunction with level crossing can only be successful if they have the support of local residents. This requires a structured approach where affected residents can have meaningful engagement with the State agencies involved.
I believe that Irish Rail/NTA should follow the model of Transport Scotland and initiate Community Rail Partnerships to bring together various stakeholders who will be impacted by proposals to close level crossings. These “form a bridge between the railway and local communities, bringing together a wide range of interests along a rail corridor” and are funded by the Scottish Transport Department.
I believe that this model, which seems to be working successfully in Scotland, could be introduced in Ireland, with the Maynooth line as the initial pilot project. I have strongly urged the Minister to examine this proposal as a means of achieving more amicable resolutions to future disputes about level crossings.