I remember my childhood days when the train ran from Dublin to Navan to Kells and from Virginia Road station to Oldcastle. Unfortunately, in the late 1950s or 1960s, that ceased. One could also have taken a train from Navan to Kingscourt via Kilberry, Wilkinstown, Castletown, Navan, Nobber, and Kilmainham Wood.
Passenger lines to Kingscourt closed in 1947. Freight trains have continued to use the line, mainly to transport gypsum. There have been regular trains from Kingscourt, both to the Irish Cement factories at Platin outside Drogheda and Castlemongret in County Limerick. Partly as a result of the ILDA dispute, the traffic to Platin switched to road. Iarnród Éireann has decided that the line from Navan to Kingscourt is to close because of high maintenance costs. It is ironic given that the programme of bridge renewal on the line has been ongoing since the beginning of 2000.
Closing this line will lead to 30 or 40 extra lorries using Meath roads travelling to Drogheda and County Limerick. These roads are already overburdened with traffic. They facilitate traffic going from the north and the north-west to Dublin and traffic from Dundalk going west. It is odd that Iarnród Éireann is closing the northern half of the original Clonsilla-Kingscourt railway when there are plans to reopen for passengers the now closed Navan-Clonsilla section by 2011.
I understand that Iarnród Éireann is considering withdrawing from the freight rail business. The investment of recent years in our railways is only beginning to make up for the decades of under-investment. Industries should be encouraged to switch to rail through tax breaks and suitable subsidies. It was always intended that when passenger trains returned to Navan, the existing line to Kingscourt would reopen for passengers.
I call on the Minister of State not to make the mistake that was made concerning the line from Dublin to Oldcastle. When it ceased it the late 1950s or early 1960s, not only was the line closed but the land was sold back to the farmers. If that line had been left intact, a train could be running again from Dublin to Oldcastle. I appeal to the Minister of State to reconsider this decision and do all in his power to keep the line open.