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Large Decrease In Air Pollution From Traffic In 2020 Due To COVID-19.

  • While air quality in Ireland in 2020 was generally good there are worrying localised issues.
  • Air pollution from traffic fell at all monitoring stations, particularly at urban roadside locations, as a consequence of reduced traffic volumes due to Covid-19 restrictions.
  • However, Ireland was above World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines for particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ozone at 52 monitoring sites, mostly due to the burning of solid fuel in our villages, towns and smaller cities.
  • Fine particulate matter from the burning of solid fuel remains the biggest contributor to poor air quality in Ireland, responsible for an estimated 1,300 premature deaths per year.
  • The choices we make in how we heat our homes and how we travel directly impacts the quality of the air we breathe.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today launched its annual air quality report ‘Air Quality in Ireland 2020′. The report shows that, while air quality in Ireland is generally good and compares favourably with many of our European neighbours, there are worrying localised issues which lead to poor air quality.

EPA monitoring shows that Ireland was compliant with EU legal limits in 2020, largely assisted by the significant reduction in traffic due to Covid-19 restrictions. Air pollution from traffic – nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – fell at all monitoring stations, but most notably at urban-traffic locations where levels fell by up to 50%.

However, air quality levels were above the WHO stricter guideline values at 52 monitoring stations, largely due to the burning of solid fuel for home heating.

Air quality has an impact on people’s health and there are an estimated 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland per year due to levels of fine fine particles (particulate matter) in our air. Levels of this pollutant are of growing concern and are particularly high during the winter months, when people’s use of solid fuels such as coal, turf and wood impacts negatively on-air quality, especially in villages, towns and smaller cities.

The EPA air quality report notes that any movement towards cleaner home heating choices and less smoky solid fuel choices will result in a subsequent improvement on air quality.

Launching the report, Air Quality in Ireland 2020, Dr Micheál Lehane, Director of the EPA’s Office of Radiation Protection & Environmental Monitoring, said,
“The EPA’s air quality monitoring carried out in 2020 has shown that there were dramatic and immediate decreases in air pollution in our urban areas due to reduced traffic volumes associated with COVID-19 restrictions. As we now start to travel more we must not lose sight of the obvious link between our journey choices and levels of traffic derived air pollutants. Pollutants from traffic have a negative impact on people’s health and our actions, as individuals, do impact the air we breathe.

Pat Byrne, EPA Programme Manager, said,
“Ireland still has issues with poor air quality due to the burning of solid fuel in our villages, towns and smaller cities. Ireland is above WHO air quality guideline values at many locations and it is imperative that we each, as individuals, make cleaner air choices when deciding how to heat our homes, as this can improve our local air quality and have associated health benefits.”

The Government has announced that new regulations on the use of solid fuels will come into force in 2022 – all coal products sold will be required to be low-smoke and all wood sold for immediate use must have a moisture content of 25 per cent or less. This is a positive step for air quality, which will need to be supported by clear communications to ensure public engagement and the best outcome for air quality and health.

The ‘ABC for Cleaner Air’ campaign, launched by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, highlights some simple steps we can all make and help reduce pollution from solid fuels. The EPA’s home heating infographic also identifies what changes people can make to home heating choices to improve air quality.

The ‘Air Quality in Ireland 2020’ report is available on the EPA website. The EPA continually monitors air quality across Ireland and provides the air quality index for health and real-time results online HERE.
Results are updated hourly on the website, and people can log on at any time to check whether the current air quality is good, fair or poor.

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office: 053-91 70770 (24 hours) and media@epa.ie

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Passengers Report Open Use Of Cocaine On Dublin-Cork Train Service.

Two passengers were “doing lines of cocaine” off the table on a train travelling through Thurles, from Dublin (Séan Heuston Station) to Cork (Thomas Kent Station), according to one of some 26 complaints lodged with Irish Rail in the past 18 months (January 2020 to June 2021).

One of the longest railway lines in Ireland at 266 kilometres (165 mls); in 2018, 3.46 million passengers travelled on this same Dublin /Cork line.

In all the complaints received of antisocial behaviour on this Irish Rail route; indeed several relate to drug use. A similar complaint said two passengers had a number of plastic bags and drugs on a table, which they were consuming, quite openly.

The other reports received involve details relating to drunkenness, harassment and threatening behaviour, latter which in the case of one lady; saw a report that one passenger threatened that he would hit her on the head with a bottle and machete (long flat bladed knife), if she did not talk to him.

Mr Dermot O’Leary, (National Bus and Rail Union), has called for a dedicated transport police force to be setup.
“The Cork-Dublin line is like a drug route at this stage. Our members certainly know who the drug-dealers and mules are; carrying these drugs,” Mr O’Leary stated.

Irish Rail have confirmed that the Dublin to Cork line passing through Thurles town is their busiest route; with the vast majority of journeys occurring without incident.

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Anti-Social Behaviour Halts Train In Thurles.

Gardai were requested to attend at an incident in Thurles Railway Station yesterday evening.

A train coming from Cork, bound for Dublin, was forced to halt when anti-social behaviour broke out on board.

We understand that the 16:30 train from Cork to Heuston, carrying passengers who had embarked at Cork, was forced to halt at Thurles, when disruptive behaviour caused a technical issue on board.

The passengers were eventually accommodated on alternative services, causing minor delays to other services passing through the Thurles station, as a result of this 16.30 public transport failure.

From May 2020 to the end of April 2021, there have been 37 incidents of antisocial behaviour on Cork rail services or at Cork stations, with incidents ranging from non-compliance with Covid regulations, vandalism, possession of drugs or alcohol, theft and loitering.

We understand further Garda enquiries are now being processed.

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“Big Lift” Promises Big Improvements To Thurles Rail Passenger Mobility Issues.

Big Lift Upgrade To Thurles Railway Station.

Some 22 railway stations nationally will see Lifts or Elevators facilities either renewed or upgraded in 2021, as part of an estimated €5.8 million investment plan by Iarnród Éireann.

Thurles Railway Station.

The Irish rail travel provider are making big changes by replacing and upgrading their elevators for people with mobility issues.
Twenty-two stations across the network will have their lifts upgraded by the end of this year.
This follows upgrades to twelve other stations previously in 2020.
Some 52 stations across the rail network are set to receive similar investment by 2024.

Upgrading of accessibility at Thurles Railway Station is expected to begin on June 7th next and is expected to be completed by July 23rd 2021.
Commuters departing or arriving at Thurles Station and who have mobility issues are advised to contact Thurles Railway Station [Phone: (0504) 21733 or (01) 836 6222. Calling from outside the Republic of Ireland +353 (1) 836 6222] in advance of their journey, so that they can be fully facilitated during the period of this necessary Thurles upgrade.

In order to achieve improvements, there may be some disruptions which will however provide in the longer term, extra reliable station access for commuters going forward.

Work, which began on April 19th last, at Templemore Railway Station Co. Tipperary, is due to be completed on Friday June 4th next, with work then commencing at Thurles.

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Cork To Dublin Rural Rail Line Most Delayed This Year

Irish Rail

Back in late November 2019 we raised the issue of the increasing unreliability of Irish Rail on their Cork to Dublin rail line, latter serving Thurles town.

Irish Rail admit that their Cork Kent-to-Dublin Heuston line have had the most delays this year, with almost 14% of train journeys on that route [one of the longest such routes in Ireland at 266 km], being delayed by more than their punctuality target of ten minutes.

The Dublin to Cork line was initially built by the Great Southern and Western Railway (GS&WR), connecting the largest and second largest cities here in the republic of Ireland. Construction first began in 1844, when the GS&WR built a line from Kingsbridge Station (today Heuston Station, Dublin) to Cashel, Co. Tipperary, which they then later extended to Cork city.

Each day, Monday through to Saturday, there are 14 services between Dublin (Heuston) and Cork (Kent), each departing hourly. Similarly, on the return journey there are 15 daily services between Cork Kent and Dublin Heuston, each also departing hourly, with 14 daily departures on Saturday, while on Sundays, travelling Cork Kent – Dublin Heuston – Cork Kent, there exists 10 such services.

Some 14,575 complaints were forwarded to Irish rail by commuters this year, of which 1686 were about seat reservations; while 872 reported issues were with overcrowding. Other complaints raised concerns regarding the temperature of carriages, drug use, intimidation, vandalism, theft, cleanliness and issues around 1st Class status.

Our published report of November 30th last, have already led to several email being received from local rural commuters, mainly students, also complaining about the non-availability of seating accommodation on carriages’ at weekends.

One rather disturbing complaint, however, came from Ms Evelyn Nevin, (Former Thurles Town Councillor & Honours Degree Social Care and Ability Project Co-ordinator), at the RehabCare Resource Centre here in Thurles.

Ms Nevin commented that a ‘Childrens Special Needs Group’ experienced a similar situation failure within Irish Rail last January, akin to our previous report in November 2019. A group of children were being taken on an outing to a “Wild Lights” event at Dublin Zoo. A wheelchair had been booked onto a carriage where no wheelchair space was provided. Staff then wanted the group organisers to leave that child in another carriage on their own. Despite paying nearly €600.00 in advance for reserved seating, no such seating was provided either travelling to or from the event, thus leaving very vulnerable children forced to scatter to find seats throughout various carriages’ on the train, leaving staff minders standing.

Despite communicating RehabCare’s dissatisfaction to Irish Rail chiefs, regarding this unacceptable service afforded to these children; to date, almost 12 months later, no reply, offering any explanation or indeed an apology, has ever been offered by Irish Rail.

Recently, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Shane Ross has announced a €1 billion investment in Ireland’s heavy rail infrastructure to be introduced over the next five years.

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