Divers set to investigate whether flooded rail line is safe

Divers set to investigate whether flooded rail line is safe


The rail line at Ballycar Newmarket on Fergus which has been closed since February 1st – Photo: © Pat Flynn, 2014

Specialist divers will arrive in Co Clare today to investigate what damage, if any, has been caused to a stretch of rail line that has been flooded for almost four months.

It’s the third time in 6 years the Limerick to Ennis railway has been closed due to flooding at Ballycar near Newmarket on Fergus however this is the longest period the line has been out of service.

The Minister with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) Mr Brian Hayes has already said it could take €10m, a quarter of the country’s annual flood relief budget, to resolve the recurring problem.

After being closed since February 1st part of the line remains under water but it is expected to be cleared before the end of the month.

At the height of this years flooding, over a kilometre of track disappeared beneath the water to a depth of up to 8 feet in places. It’s now feared that the embankment on which the line sits may have been weakened by being submerged for so long.

Specialist teams are due in the area today (Monday) and divers are expected to view the extent of any shift in the line or any damage caused by the extended flooding.

An Iarnród Éireann spokeswoman said: “The water is now receding quite quickly. We now need to undertake a detailed inspection of embankments and structures to ensure that no damage has occurred, and to undertake any remedial works.”

The company added: “Based on all considerations we are confident that we will be resuming services during this month.”

While the OPW has washed it’s hands of the flooding problem, a study commissioned by Iarnród Éireann and published in October 2011 blamed the repeated flooding on works undertaken by the OPW over 85 years ago.

The OPW has consistently stated that this flooding impacts primarily on the railway line and because the line would be the main beneficiary of flood mitigation measures it is a matter for Irish Rail, as owners of the railway line, to resolve their problem.

Iarnród Éireann has said however: “The issue to be addressed is not on our land and the flooding affects other landowners and roadways. Flood alleviation works could have potential effects on other areas, including centres of population. The OPW have the legal authority and expertise to undertake the necessary works.”

No trains have travelled the line between Limerick and Ennis since February leaving one station at Sixmilebridge closed while buses have operated between the stations.

Chief Reporter Pat Flynn has worked as a journalist for almost 30 years. His career began during the late 1980s when, like many aspiring radio presenters of the time, he worked for local pirate radio stations in Clare and Limerick. Pat joined Clare FM in 1990 where he worked as researcher initially and later presented several different programmes including the station's flagship current affairs programme. He was also the station's News Editor and Deputy Controller of Programmes. Despite leaving in 2003 to pursue a career as a freelance journalist, he continues to work with the station to this day. As well as being the Clare Herald’s Chief Reporter Pat is also freelance journalist and broadcaster, contributing to Ireland’s national newspapers and is a regular contributor to national broadcasters.