The high cost of rent and student accommodation in Galway city has proved something of ‘a blessing in disguise’ for Irish Rail.
Figures reveal that there has been an increase of a staggering 60% in train usage between Limerick and Galway over the past six years. And while many critics of the rail line argue that it is mainly used by elderly and other non-paying customers, Irish Rail say that the increase in passenger numbers between the two cities is also an indication of the current accommodation crisis that exists in Galway.
A spokesman told the Galway City Tribune that they had reduced the single fare between Galway and Limerick to under €7.50 and that this had resulted in a large volume of students now travelling to college on a daily basis. Passenger numbers between the two cities were as low as 180,000 to an impressive 352,000 last year which showed a significant increase in the number of students and workers using the service.
Irish Rail put the success of the service, which also takes in the much-maligned stretch of railway between Ennis and Athenry, down to the fact that the cost of accommodation in Galway City has grown at a phenomenal rate. That combined in a reduction in the fare being charged between the two destinations has contributed to the numbers being bolstered in recent years in particular.
Back in 2013, Iarnród Éireann undertook an extensive appraisal of the route to identify growth possibilities to increase passenger numbers.
The company noted the rising cost of accommodation in Galway city and decided to make train travel more affordable – and particularly for students.
“Taking everything into account, it was determined that the optimum way to drive significant volume onto the route was to price the tickets at a similar level to bus equivalents,” an Iarnród Éireann spokesperson said.
This involved a reduction in train fairs by around 50%. The company described it as a “significant initiative which ignores traditional rail pricing policies” but it has worked a treat with spiralling passenger numbers in recent years. The price reductions were introduced in the fourth quarter of 2013 and following an extensive local promotion in both Galway and Limerick, it proved hugely popular with students and younger workers.
“Since we have introduced these measures, we have seen growth on this route over other routes in the region – admittedly from a low base.
“Our future plans are to continue to drive usage through aggressive pricing,” the spokesperson said, adding that student accommodation in Galway City can cost anything between €3,500 and €5,000 a year during college term.
While usage increases to the tune of nearly 60% has been experienced on the Galway to Limerick line, the comparable numbers are much smaller for Galway to Dublin (28%), Westport to Dublin (13%) and Sligo to Dublin (10%).