He didn’t arrive by train, but Minister of State Alan Kelly arrived bang on time to Portlaoise train station last Thursday afternoon, February 21.
The Junior Minister for Transport came at the request of Senator John Whelan and Portlaoise Town Council, to view for himself the undersized car parking facilities at the station.
Portlaoise station sees 55 trains stopping daily but has only 110 spaces.
This compares poorly to Portarlington’s ample 170 spaces, with almost half the population. The shortage has forced commuters to park on side roads, risking clampers or damage to their cars, or drive instead to Portarlington or Newbridge stations.
Anyone hoping to park and ride after 8am is disappointed, and nearby residents have also complained about people parking in front of their houses.
“People are complaining to us on a daily basis,” said Denis Tierney, Station Controller, adding that 50 to 70 extra spaces are needed.
Minister Kelly who has responsibility for Public and Commuter transport, took a walk around the carpark led by fellow Labour party member, Senator Whelan along with the council’s Director of Services for roads, Kieran Kehoe, Portlaoise Town Manager Michael Rainey, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald, Cllr Kathleen O’Brien and Cllr Jerry Lodge.
Senator Whelan explained to him that the problem has grown in recent years.
“The station is a victim of its own success, for twenty years people campaigned for Portlaoise to be within the commuter belt. All these trains used to stop in Kildare, now they are here but there is nowhere to park,”
Minister Kelly was shown a small low lying site on the Mountmellick road owned by Irish Rail that has potential for an extra 13 spaces, but would be costly to build.
Laois County Council are offering their help to create an entrance to this site.
Another potential parking spot lies across the road, in the old Maltings factory, now owned by NAMA, but the minister was informed the cost also could be prohibitive.
All agreed however that the best potential lies with the idle CBS playing fields, to the right of the station, and the Minister has agreed to request Irish Rail to open communications with the the Christian Brothers, Portlaoise parish and the Edmund Rice Trust who jointly own the school.
“This is something that should be looked at.
“The local authority can lead on that, and I would be delighted to find out how those discussions go.
“From a topography point of view, it is a flat site, beside the station, it would be simpler and easier,” said Minister Kelly.
A planning application had been lodged four years ago by Irish Rail to extend the carpark but was withdrawn.
Last November Irish Rail said they had no money to acquire additional land, but would revisit the issue when funding becomes available.
“It is correct that current car parking facilities at Portlaoise do not always meet demand.
“We have the the past looked at alternative parking locations in the vicinity but for various reasons providing additional car parking has not been successful. “There is a large car park at Portarlington that has ample capacity, “ their spokesperson said.