by James Scannell


Lines from Ireland –August to October 2021

On Tuesday August 31 st the National Transport Authority [NTA] announced that from Wednesday September 1 st , buses, trams and trains would return to full capacity meaning that seating would no longer be blocked off on-board these vehicles. Although welcoming people back to public transport, the NTA on safety grounds reminded passengers that wearing of a face- covering on public transport remained mandatory; transport operators would continue daily cleaning regimes on their fleet; hand sanitizer would continue to be available on-board buses and at stations for passengers; windows would be left open on-board where available to improve ventilation; and that Leap Card and other cashless payments should continued to be used where possible. However advance booking still currently remains in place for travel on Inter-City [long distance] trains to avoid overcrowding.


On Sunday September 26 th , Pelletstown Station, the newest station on the Iarnród Éireann network, opened to the communities of Ashington and Royal Canal Park in Dublin. The new station on the Maynooth/M3 Parkway to Dublin line is the 145 th station on the Iarnród Éireann network. Pelletstown Station construction was funded by the National Transport Authority and from levies collected by Dublin City Council from the new development at Royal Canal Park, and was constructed by Sisk on behalf of Iarnród Éireann. Pelletstown was designated as a ‘Key Development Area’ in the Dublin City Council Development Plan. Pelletstown Station is situated between Ashtown and Broombridge stations on the Dublin to Maynooth/M3 Parkway line. It will serve the existing community of Ashington as well as the new community at Royal Canal Park, with a journey time of as little as 12 minutes from the city center [downtown], served by 94 trains daily in total (weekdays). The station comprises of two platforms, a footbridge and accessible ramp access between platforms and to the railway, as well as a second footbridge and accessible ramp over the canal. It will promote greater public transport options for residents in the area, reducing reliance on personal automobiles and giving a more sustainable commuting option for the community. The footbridges will improve connectivity between the two communities of Ashington and Royal Canal Park and will also provide a new pedestrian and cycle access to the Canal Greenway, promoting multi modal transport. Both bridges also include ramps for the mobility impaired and for those travelling with small children and heavy luggage. Bicycle parking has also been provided, as well as dedicated accessible car park spaces, adjacent to Ashington Park.


During the Fall of 2021 it was announced by Iarnród Éireann that a further 22 stations will have passenger elevators facilities renewed or upgraded in 2021 as part of a US$7M upgrade, The Big Lift, in which these facilities will be replaced and upgraded. The Big Lift means big improvements for people with mobility issues. There may be some disruptions now, but this work will provide extra reliable station access for everyone in the future. Twenty-two stations across the Iarnród Éireann network will have their passenger elevators upgraded by the end of this year, following twelve stations in 2020, with 52 stations across the rail network set for major investment up to 2024. While these upgrades are in progress, alternative arrangements will be advised for customers with reduced mobility to ensure continued access at stations.


On September 29 th at the Port of Waterford, Iarnród Eireann and XPO Logistics, a leading global provider of freight transportation solutions, launched a new rail freight service in each direction between Ballina, Co. Mayo, and Waterford. The new rail service began weekly operations that day building to twice-weekly within eight weeks. The new service will offer Irish industry a greener and more efficient mode of transporting freight between the West and Southeast of the country. It will see the potential for over 5,000 truck movements a year to switch from road to rail, with a resulting reduction in road congestion, and 75% reduction in emissions per unit. The new service comes as Iarnród Éireann is finalizing a new national rail freight strategy to identify growth and investment opportunities to significantly grow rail freight operations. Iarnród Éireann is continuing to work with existing and potential new customers and Freight Forwarders, Ports and the Irish Exporters Association to identify opportunities and trends for rail freight development within the Irish and European market. The new rail freight service between Ballina and Waterford is in addition to existing rail freight operations, which include: Container traffic from Ballina to Dublin Port; Pulpwood from Ballina and Westport to Waterford Port; and Zinc ore from Tara Mines in Navan to Dublin Port.


News from Britain

Mortar bomb find halts Guiseley-Ilkley rail services

On July 26 th train services in part of West Yorkshire were suspended for several hours following the discovery of a mortar shell near a railroad. Subsequently indentified as a "training bomb", the device was discovered by a staff member near the level crossing off Sun Lane during routine maintenance near the tracks between Guiseley and Ilkley. The British Army sent a specialist bomb disposal team from Catterick Garrison, who were able to identify the device as a training device, completely safe, and one that was used during training exercises and which posed no risk to the public.


ScotRail plans to cut 300 train services

ScotRail, which operate rail services Scotland, published a plan during August to cut 300 rail services per day from its timetable. The rail operator "Fit for the Future" document sets out proposals for public transport as the country emerges from the Covid pandemic. The company wants to drop from its pre-Covid number of 2,400 services a day to 2,100 in line with new travel patterns and overcapacity on some routes. Railroad unions have accused the company of using Covid as a cover for cuts. ScotRail has been running just over 2,000 services per day while pandemic restrictions have been in place. Scotrail said it had reviewed the timetable across the whole network to ensure the service meets the needs of customers and the Scottish government's aims as Scotland recovers from the pandemic. It said: "We are proposing a new timetable operating around 2,100 services per weekday as the foundation to encourage a return to public transport following the pandemic. Most customers will find the number of calls at their station and the destinations served are similar to today. However, there are some areas where there is greater change, which is being done for several important reasons. Our analysis shows prior to the pandemic, on a number of routes across the country, significantly more seats were being provided than were required for the number of passengers travelling." ScotRail covers all passenger services in Scotland except those run by other operators which cross the Scotland/England border. Abellio currently runs the franchise but from spring next year the Scottish government will take over from the Dutch firm , using a "break clause"; in the franchise contract to end it three years early. ScotRail said that fewer than 5.5m passenger journey miles were completed on a typical weekday, which was just 23% of the available number of seats. That meant seats were empty for 77% of the distance travelled. It added that a return to a pre- pandemic timetable would result in trains operating 26 million more vehicle miles each year for little customer benefit. ScotRail also said the new timetable would focus on improved punctuality and reliability of services.


Southeastern train services taken over by British government During October Southeastern's train services were taken over by the British government. Franchise holder Govia was informed of the decision in September after failing to declare more than £25m of taxpayer funding. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Operator of Last Resort would take over the running to protect taxpayers'; interests. Passengers are unlikely to see any immediate changes as trains, timetables and fares will stay the same. Southeastern's vast network includes London, Kent, East Sussex and the High Speed 1 line. The franchise was owned by Govia - a joint venture between Go-Ahead Group and Keolis. The British government stepped in after an investigation by the Department for Transport (DfT) identified that Govia had not declared millions of pounds of historic taxpayer funding. The DfT said the money had since been reclaimed. Further investigations are being conducted and the government is considering more action, including financial penalties. Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: "Passengers will want a punctual, reliable, clean train, with enough room to sit and stand, and value for money fares." Cat Hobbs, director of public ownership campaign group We Own It, said "privatisation is failing our railway" and called for the whole rail network to be brought into public hands "where it belongs".



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Revised: Dec 2021