Having a yarn to one of my distant relatives over the weekend about our farming forebears it was fascinating to discover one of them wasn't an agrarian type - he was in fact a stationmaster.

That was in the days when the local head of the railways was a man of the highest stature, up there with the postmaster, the bank manager, the general practitioner and the parish priest.

It was when most rural towns had rows of railway houses, when rail wasn't only the preferred mode of passenger travel but was also the main player in freight haulage.

All that came to an end during the final, blurry years of the Muldoon Government when the Railways Department became the Railways Corporation. At the same time land transport was deregulated and that led to what we've got today - carnage on our roads.


Before the change, road freight could only be carried for relatively short distances, the long haul was the preserve of railways. Today it's open slather.

Those of you who were out on the roads during the Easter break will know what I mean. Thundering juggernauts beating down the highways, or worse along our two lane roads, trailed by long lines of impatient cars.

Some of us stuck in the lines over the weekend had time to count the number of wheels on these kings of the road. On average they have around 30. They're intimidating and daunting.

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But it's that impatience that leads to people making stupid decisions when it comes to overtaking, They seem to be dicing with death, hell bent on cutting five minutes off their travel time but at the same time running the risk of their time being up in a blinding flash.

The statistics speak for themselves. In 2014 67 people died, and a further 772, were injured in road crashes involving trucks. That represents almost a quarter of our fatal road toll involving trucks.

And for those of you who recklessly overtook a truck during the weekend, consider this - 81 per cent of those who died in truck crashes weren't occupants of the truck.

It's too late to go back to the days of the stationmaster and it'd be nigh on impossible to again confine long haul freight haulage to rail, which is a pity. But is it too much to ask for it to be marketed as a cheaper, viable alternative to road, which would save the taxpayer -as the owners of rail and the custodians of our hospitals - a mint.

And it would certainly make our driving experience less fraught.

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