A shot of ‘The Red Bridge’ taken by local correspondent Joe Cashin, a relic of a past rail age that served Waterford and its environs so well.

A shot of ‘The Red Bridge’ taken by local correspondent Joe Cashin, a relic of a past rail age that served Waterford and its environs so well.

‘Cut from the bottom’ is an old subediting convention in journalism. When you’re in a race against time, with a page designer awaiting copy on a Tuesday afternoon, this ‘slice and dice’ method is still regularly availed of.

Of course, it’s not always the wisest path to pursue, as I discovered when spotting the following at the base of a press release last week.

The final sentence of the piece stated there are: “future plans to extend the railway into Waterford City and operate a commuter light rail service between Waterford City and County.”

The team responsible for the Waterford and Suir Valley Railway at Kilmeaden has an ambitious plan ‘in train’ – pardon the pun – and a very good plan it is.

The railway, which is currently a tourist-only venture (re-opening on April 1st) could include a regular commuter service to and from Bilberry in the future.

Intriguingly, the proposed €380 million Water Haven development envisaged for the Waterford Stanley site on the Suir’s south bank provides for a one-kilometre extension of the existing line to the site of the old Waterford South station.

As reported by Tom Young in our edition dated April 25th 2008, “the railway works will also leave open the possibility of light rail ultimately running along Waterford’s south quays”.

The proposal, spearheaded by local developer William Bolster, was objected to by Bowefield Residents Association, local Green Party member Brendan McCann and the Gracedieu Residents Group. A ruling on this protracted case by An Bord Pleanála is due on May 27th.

Putting that planning decision to one side, Waterford and Suir Valley Railway is to be saluted for demonstrating the sort of foresight that is painfully absent among Leinster House’s decision makers.

Now it should be noted that discussions between the company and the City Council have been ongoing for several years and it may well be some time before any announcements are made. But nonetheless, this is a positive development and it merits our attention.

The Council has employed Cork consultants Mott McDonald Pettit to conduct a feasibility study on transport within the city, work which it began last October.

The study, which also includes an examination of light rail transport in the city, is due to be completed and signed off by June.

Rail has so much in its favour: it has the potential to take cars off the road, thus reducing carbon emissions and helping Ireland to meet its international environmental commitments.

And while the inter-city fleet has been thankfully upgraded to a standard it ought to have been at many years ago, scheduling remains painfully deficient.

After all, you cannot get a Waterford-bound train to Dublin beyond 6.25pm on weekdays with the latest train to Plunkett Station departing Heuston at 6.40pm on Sundays.

That no direct link exists between Waterford and Cork is appalling. That no link exists between Waterford and Tramore is equally disappointing.

After all, both theoretical construction projects would involve little disruption to existing transport systems, and both would put a lot of people in work during this less prosperous period.

That no-one in high office, which, for a time included a Waterford man in the Department of Transport, never substantively spoke about the possibility of re-opening the old Waterford lines, was also disappointing.

The naysayers point to the uptake on existing rail services and say it’s not attracting enough customers. Why plough more money into it, they’d surely add.

But if you provide a genuinely comprehensive rail service, which, in my view, we’ve not had for a half-century, people will turn to it. If you build it, they will come.

Waterford and Suir Valley Railway has taken an important first step in establishing a light-rail service for the city and its environs (Kilmeaden, Ballyduff, Portlaw, etc). It must be encouraged. It must be supported.