by James Scannell


November 2023 to January 2024

The National Transport Authority (NTA), in partnership with bus operators Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead Ireland, commenced the next phase of BusConnects, 5b, on Sunday November 26th with the introduction of five new orbital routes across south and west Dublin, as well as three other routes. The new routes S2, S4, S6, S8, W2, L25, L55 and 74 replaced routes 17, 18, 61, 75 + 75a, 76 +76a, and 175, but other bus services in these areas continued and will continue to operate as normal. The new routes create many new journey opportunities with more direct and more frequent services between the main travel destinations and interchanges across south Dublin. These services will also be more frequent than the ones being replaced, resulting in a service increase of over 70%.

Phase 5b routes serve areas in the southern and western regions of Dublin including Blackrock, Tallaght, Citywest, Ballyfermot, Walkinstown, Rathfarnham, Drimnagh, Churchtown, Dundrum, Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, Crumlin, Stillorgan, Monkstown, Kimmage, Sandyford, Terenure, Dún Laoghaire, and University College Dublin.

The new S2, L25 and 74 routes are operated by Dublin Bus and routes S4, S6, S8, W2 and L55 by Go-Ahead Ireland.

Minister for Transport, Éamon Ryan T.D. [Congressman] was joined by An Cathaoirleach [Leader] of Dún Laoghaire- Rathdown County Council, Cllr. Denis O’Callaghan, Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority, and Jim Meade, CEO of Iarnród Éireann [Irish Rail] on Tuesday November 25th to turn the first sod to mark the commencement of construction of Woodbrook, Iarnród Éireann’s newest DART Station.

Woodbrook Station is located midway between Shankill 10 miles south of Dublin, and Bray, 12 miles south of Dublin, and will serve the existing and new communities of Woodbrook and Shanganagh which are adjacent to it, and will be the 147th Station on the company’s network - there are currently 145 stations on the network. Kishoge will open later this year and Woodbrook in 2025.

Funded by the National Transport Authority, the station will be at the heart of a new residential community of up to 2,300 housing unit. The provision of the station will reduce reliance on private car use and assist Ireland in reaching its climate action targets.

Woodbrook Station will consist of two 174 meter long platforms with associated passenger shelters, seating, lighting, CCTV, customer information, bicycle parking and ticketing facilities. Access across the railroad tracks will be via a new pedestrian bridge with ramped and stepped access. The station design considers and allows for future plans for pedestrian and cycling access routes in the station vicinity. Access to the station is via Woodbrook Avenue which is a new road currently under construction. Existing DART services are planned to serve the station with a service frequency of approximately every 10 minutes in each direction on weekdays. The journey time to Dublin city centre will be approximately 40 minutes.

Enabling works commenced on the station site in 2022. This included the replacement of an existing bridge deck to allow construction access and the relocation of railway infrastructure to accommodate the new station. Following a competitive tender process, John Cradock Ltd. has been awarded the contract to undertake the main station construction works. The station is expected to open in summer 2025. Approximately 15 people are expected to be employed on the site for the duration of the works.

The number of passengers using the Republic of Ireland’s public transport network during 2023 returned to record highs, according to preliminary figures released by the National Transport Authority with more than 308 million passenger journeys in 2023 provided by Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann, Luas, Go-Ahead Ireland and TFI Local Link on ‘Transport for Ireland’ Public Service Obligation (PSO) services last year, making it the busiest ever year for the public transport network.

The preliminary figures represent an overall 24% increase in passenger numbers during 2023 when compared with 2022, and a 5% increase above the previous record set in 2019.

Dublin Bus carried over 145 million passengers, a 20% increase on the 121 million passengers carried in 2022.

Bus Éireann served in excess of 44 million passengers, a significant increase on the 35 million passengers who used its services in 2022.

Go-Ahead Ireland’s Dublin Metropolitan area bus services, served over 16 million passengers compared to 12.5 million in 2022.

Luas carried 48.2 million passengers, a 25% rise compared to 38.6 million passengers in 2022.

Preliminary figures from Iarnród Éireann show rail passenger journeys in 2023 also grew significantly, as the post Covid recovery continues. An estimated 45.5 million passenger journeys were made by rail up from 35.8 million in 2022.

Most of the discounted Leap fares introduced in 2022, including the €2 [US$2.25] TFI 90-minute fare in Dublin, are to remain in place, according to the National Transport Authority as announced in January The TFI-90 €2 fare which allows passengers free transfer between Dublin Bus, Luas and most DART, commuter rail and Go-Ahead Ireland services in Dublin, has been a huge success and has contributed to the increase in passenger numbers recorded across the city’s network in 2022.

Last year’s strategy also announced that a Dublin City Zone and a Dublin Commuter Zone were to be introduced. The Dublin City Zone is to extend approximately 23km from the city, and broadly equates to the existing 90-minute fare zone. The Dublin Commuter Zone extending to approximately 50km from Dublin city centre will include towns such as Drogheda, Navan, Trim, Enfield, Clane, Prosperous, Newbridge, Kildare, Greystones and Wicklow.

News from Britain
Historic Signal Boxes to close

In early January Network Rail said that it would close the historic railway signal box at Par, the oldest working signal box in Cornwall, built in 1880, along with signal boxes at Lostwithiel and Truro as part of a digital upgrade. The signal boxes at Par, and Lostwithiel, built in 1893, are Grade II buildings listed by Historic England which means that they must be preserved. The fate of Truro’s box is yet to be decided, but there are no immediate plans to demolish it. Truro’s signal box, built in 1899, currently looks after the entire Falmouth branch line and a section of the main line from Chacewater to Probus. Signalling at Par, Lostwithiel, and Truro will be controlled centrally near Exeter St. Davids, in Devon. Due to the mechanical nature of the signal boxes, signallers physically pull 51 levers in Truro that change semaphores signals. The number of working signal boxes has been dwindling since their peak of between 12,000-13,000 around 1914. British Railways inherited about 10,000 signal boxes when it was formed in 1948 and by end of 2019, Network Rail said 86 were still in use.

HS2 to Birmingham may cost Stg £65bn

The London to Birmingham stretch of the HS2 railway could cost more than Stg £65bn in current prices, according Sir Jonathan Thompson, CEO of the company building it due to rises in the cost of materials such as concrete and steel which over the past few years have added between Stg £8bn to Stg £10bn to the overall cost.

In October 2023 the British government cancelled the sections between the West Midlands, Manchester, and the East Midlands and now HS2 Ltd and the government disagree on the cost of building the rest. The company’s latest estimate for the London to Birmingham stretch is between Stg£49bn and Stg£57bn at 2019 prices but the British government believes that it should be delivered at the lower end of Stg£45bn to Stg£54bn, estimates put together before last October’s announcement. However, Sir Jonathan does not believe £45bn is possible but that the price tag might be lower without the taxpayer funding a new station at London Euston, but doubts that this would bring down the cost as much as the government stated.

Sir Jonathan has also stated that HS2 trains will travel more slowly than existing Pendolino trains when they travel on conventional tracks between Birmingham and Manchester, because they cannot tilt on bends and expects fewer seats to be available on HS2 north of Birmingham now the legs to Manchester and Crewe have been scrapped, due to trains having to be shorter to fit existing platforms. HS2 trains of the same length as the current Pendolinos would be used, but would have fewer seats.

Sir Jonathan also said HS2 was waiting for the British government to make decisions on certain aspects of the project, including the tunnel south from Old Oak Common to Euston. Development of the railway’s terminus at London Euston will depend on investment from private developers, with plans to develop housing around the station but until the new station is built, HS2 will end at Old Oak Common in West London, meaning people would have to change trains to reach the capital’s heart.

Death of man thought to be Burma Railway last survivor

In late January the death of 104-year old former soldier Jack Jennings, believed to be the last surviving veteran of the infamous Burma Railway, at a Torquay care home, was announced. Jennings was one of the 60,000 Allied prisoners forced by the Japanese to build a railway between Thailand and Myanmar, then Burma from 1942 to 1943. Captured on February 15th 1942 in Singapore while serving in the Cambridgeshire Regiment, he remained a prisoner of the Japanese until the end of August 1945. He survived his ordeal, and overcame a period of serious illness, to return to his childhood sweetheart Lilian Mary, whom he married in December 1945, and who died in 2004.

Stg £2bn to re-open Carmarthen to Bangor lines

Transport for Wales believes that reopening railway lines that were shut in the 1960s and have left large towns without a direct rail link would cost £2bn. Transport for Wales looked at the line between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth, Ceredigion and Afon Wen and Bangor in Gwynedd. In the view of Chief executive James Price it would be very costly to develop and difficult to implement. Under the Welsh Labour government’s co-operation deal with Plaid Cymru, Transport for Wales was asked to examine how transport links between the north and south of Wales could be developed. This included a potential travel corridor along the coast from Carmarthen to Bangor, with Transport for Wales looking at re-connecting the disused rail routes between Bangor and Afon Wen - about 28 miles. Owned by the Welsh government, Transport for Wales has been responsible for train services across much of Wales since 2018.

Eurostar services suffer major disruption

Eurostar services to London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam were cancelled on Saturday December 30th 2023 after flooding in tunnels under the River Thames led to the cancellation of all Eurostar services to and from London for that day with services resuming on Sunday December 31st but subject to delays.

New trains launch for passengers on Scotland’s Glasgow Subway

On Monday December 11th 2023 new modernized trains entered passenger service of Glasgow’s subway as part of a Stg£288 upgrade program of the city’s subway system. The first two trains were introduced by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport without ceremony and will run along existing services on the circular route connecting 15 stations around Glasgow with a further 17 trains gradually entering service in 2024 and will replace the current stock as they are retired from service.

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Revised:Mar  2024