A NEW deadline of July 27 has been set for the long-awaited opening of the €75 million Cork-Midleton commuter rail service.
But senior Iarnród Éireann officials conceded the commencement date was, however, dependent on a green light from the Railway Safety Commission.
The commission is currently examining the track, signalling and stations along the route. Once it has given approval Iarnród Éireann will put trains on the line and start training its drivers on route familiarisation.
Fortunately, it now looks as though there is some light at the end of the tunnel in a long-running saga which at times descended into farce.
Just a few weeks ago Transport Minister Noel Dempsey came down to the new railway station in Midleton to announce the service’s timetable.
But he couldn’t provide people with the actual start-up date. The ministerial photo-session took place in a train at the station. But the train didn’t move, because it wasn’t certified to carry passengers.
On numerous occasions during the past few years both Mr Dempsey and his predecessor at the department, the late Seamus Brennan, have attended photoshoots along the track.
Iarnród Éireann prided itself in the connectivity of the service with the Dublin train. However, the ink wasn’t dry on the timetable when eagle-eyed TD David Stanton noticed a major mistake. The first train out of Midleton in the morning would arrive eight minutes after the Dublin-bound train had left Kent station. As Mr Stanton pointed out, that would be the train most people would have to get in order to be in the capital for an early business meeting. Red-faced Iarnród Éireann officials said they would try and address the situation.
Midleton Chamber of Commerce president Cillian O’Sullivan said his members had also been informed by Iarnród Éireann officials that the first commuter trains would start rolling during the week commencing July 27. "We met with people from Irish Rail last week and informed our members. We would like to see the railway line open as soon as possible," Mr O’Sullivan said.
Businesspeople in Midleton – which is regarded as one of the finest shopping towns in Munster – will be hoping to cash-in on the rail link by attracting customers from Cork city.
It will also make the town increasingly attractive for home buyers, as the train will also connect with Carrigtwohill, Glounthaune, and a large number of factories in Little Island.