Deputy Matthews was speaking following a recent engagement with Irish Rail and the Department of Transport calling for a change in policy regarding the use of pesticides in clearing weeds from railway tracks. The response has outlined that the feasibility of using other methods is being examined but the use of pesticides persists in some cases. Discussing the issue, Deputy Matthews said:
“This issue was initially raised by a couple of frequent users of Irish Rail services who were growing increasingly concerned to see Irish Rail staff using what appeared to be heavy duty pesticides to clear weeds from the rail tracks. They were particularly concerned in parts of the track that cross or ran near water sources and the potential damage the pesticides run off could have on the water and surrounding biodiversity.
“I raised the matter in the Dáil last month but finally received a definitive response from Irish Rail. The response was broadly positive in that they accepted that the use of heavy pesticides was not ideal and other methods were being trialled to establish their effectiveness. This includes old fashioned but quite useful methods such as the use of boiling water and concentrated vinegar. At a national level we have already seen some local authorities moving away from pesticide use in their weed killing policy and I hope that Irish Rail will follow in due course.
“Ultimately this is a matter of safety and any build up of weeds on the tracks could pose a danger to passengers. However, while the use of pesticides may be the most effective in terms of speed, given the potential damage it can do to the biodiversity, it is worth taking the extra time to not only ensure passenger safety, but also to minimise the damage done. I look forward to the opportunity to work with Irish Rail and the Department of Transport in the coming months to try and encourage the fast tracking of this policy change.
“I am a long-term advocate for taking the train as a means of protecting the environment and how the tracks are maintained should also reflect that, concluded Deputy Matthews.