The number of journeys made by train across the State increased substantially last year but remains more than a quarter down on 2019 according to figures released by the National Transport Authority (NTA) in response to a Dáil question asked by Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuiv.
While the total number of bus journeys exceeded pre-pandemic levels in 2022, the figures for rail “are more in line with the recovery levels internationally on public transport” according to NTA chief executive Anne Graham in a letter sent on foot of the question.
In total, the number of journeys taken on Irish Rail services was just under 36 million, down 28 per cent on the comparable figure for 2019 but significantly up on 2020 and 2021 when the totals were 17.9 million and 17.4 million respectively.
Within that, the numbers on intercity services were down 24.9 per cent, on Dart services it was 26.1 per cent and other commuter rail carried 34.6 per cent fewer passengers than in the last full year before Covid-19 struck.
The Luas has been similarly affected with a 20 per drop overall. That figure represents a combination of the numbers for the two Luas lines with the Red line down 15.7 per cent and the Green line 24.3 short of its 2019 tally.
There were a small number of recorded increases with the best of them returned by the line between Limerick and Galway where numbers were up 14.4 per cent. Passenger numbers on the Dublin to Tralee route and the commuter line between Cork and Midleton were up by about 1.5 per cent in each case.
Ms Graham told Mr Ó Cuiv that the NTA expects “the retention of the 20 per cent fare reduction in 2023 as well as the Young Adult fares will help the patronage levels on rail and light rail recover more. The impact of increased level of working from home has impacted on rail and light rail services patronage at peak commuting times.”
Speaking on Midwest Radio on Tuesday, Mr Ó Cuiv described the figures for the Galway to Limerick route as “extraordinary” and said the line’s growth was “bucking the trend” across Europe generally.
He said the numbers lent weight to the argument being made for increased services on the line and that he hopes to see at least a doubling in frequency of trains long with improved travel times.
“We need to now build on this and make this a really attractive proposition for people because it’s clear if the price is right and if the services are right, there are plenty of people who want to use the Galway Limerick railway line,” he said.