When I was travelling around Ireland in 2004 I didn’t really make much use of the trains.
I had looked at getting the train from Cork to Dublin (and after the six hours it took me because of traffic on the outskirts of the Capital I wished I had), but the train back then were infrequent, elderly and sparsely used. They were also achingly slow as the whole network was in a state of semi-dereliction.
What a difference five years (and many many many billions of Euros) makes.
Today Cork station is bright and light, the grime having been cleaned away. The service to Dublin now runs every hour, and it was busy.
Yesterday, when I was going to pick up my ticket there were queues of people waiting to catch the first trains in over 40 years to Middleton, with lots of people mentioning how it was going to make getting in and out of Cork so much easier than the bus.
Proof, I think, if proof were needed, that if you make the service accessible, useable and modern (the nice shiney new trains do help), then people will use them.
Even if you were driving, it would still be over four hours to get to Dublin by car, the bus closer to five. The train now takes less than three, and I managed to get a ticket for €10 just two weeks before travelling. The £10 tickets from London to Birmingham or Bristol (comparable distances) are sold out more than a month in advance.
The only issue now is, it’s still so difficult to get anywhere else by rail in Ireland, unless you want to go via Dublin!