by James Scannell


In early March Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) announced that in order to facilitate the upgrade of the company’s advance ticket booking system, bookings for travel beyond May 4th would not be not available to purchase until April 24th due to the introduction of a new ticket booking system. To facilitate the transition from the old to the new system, dates after May 4th could not be booked between March 8th and April 23rd until the new system came into operation on April 24th.


Track trespass is a major problem for Iarnród Éireann which has urged an end to this practice as the company revealed that during 2016 train engineers had 32 “category 1” near misses with trespassers, which required engineers to hit the brakes to avoid hitting a person.


Shock CCTV footage released by the company from one station alone – Kilbarrack on Dublin’s northside – showed the recklessness involved. One trespasser in December 2016 avoided being killed by a split second, as the Dublin-to-Belfast Enterprise express sped through that station at 140 kilometers per hour. Other clips from this busy DART station in a warning video released by the company showed trespassers crossing the track with bikes, and even a toddler being carried across in a stroller.


Any one of these trespass incidents at Kilbarrack, or at any one of the 32 ‘category 1’ near misses around the network could have resulted in a tragic and needless death or catastrophic injuries. A parent carrying a stroller who falls and hurts themselves or their child leaves the engineer of the train in an impossible situation – trains take considerable distances to come to a halt even at moderate speeds, and a train cannot swerve around a stricken trespasser.


Furthermore, modern tracks and trains are a lot more silent and customers may not be aware they are approaching them. Trespassers have been seen crossing with headphones without realizing that their awareness will be dramatically reduced.


In addition to the 32 ‘category 1’ incidents, Iarnród Éireann train engineers reported over 200 trespass incidents during 2016. Company management believe that this is undoubtedly the tip of the iceberg however, and have called on all station users not to take risks on the rail network.

At Kilbarrack station platform end barriers have now been installed to counteract the problem of line trespass.

For a third year in a row Iarnród Éireann has resumed a programme of line improvement work on the main Dublin-to-Cork line focusing on the sections between Hazelhatch-Portlaoise, and Portlaoise-Ballybrophy. The work being undertaken will cost in the region of US $12M this year and will result in higher reliability, smoother and faster running of trains and, taken with other works, will deliver consistent 160 kph (100 mph) speeds resulting in improvements in journey times for customers.


The works being undertaken involve improvements to the track substructure with the removal or replacement of degraded crushed stone ballast which supports the railroad track structure, in addition to improvements to track drainage and geometry. To facilitate these works there will be timetable changes on selected Saturdays throughout this year.


In preservation matters, during February former Iarnród Éireann 121 (B) class locomotive No.134, owned by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, which operates the largest fleet of preserved working steam locomotives in Ireland, was towed by 201 class diesel locomotive No. 8209 from the Dublin Connolly roundhouse to the Dublin Inchicore Works where it is due to receive a body overhaul, bogie overhaul, and have other work carried out in order to return it to mainline standard. The cost of this work is estimated to be in the region of US $60,000.


Awaiting scrapping or preservation at the end of April in Inchicore Works were 5 remaining Iarnród Éireann-owned 141 (B) class locomotives. Two examples of this class of diesel locomotive are already owned by the Irish Traction Group, Ireland’s only dedicated diesel locomotive preservation organization. One of their locomotives is in working order and in use on the Downpatrick Railway, a private heritage railroad in County Down, Northern Ireland, while the other locomotive is in storage at the West Clare Railway awaiting restoration.

International News

Tottenham Court Road Station, London UK, Becomes Step-Free

On February 10th the final milestone in the upgrade of Tottenham Court Road Underground station on the London Underground, was reached with the station providing step-free access to both the Central and Northern lines. It became the 71st tube station providing step-free access, making travel in central London easier for older and mobility-impaired people and other customers who find it difficult to use stairs or escalators. It will directly benefit parents and carers with children and strollers.

Tottenham Court Road station has been completely modernized and expanded so that it can meet the needs of London’s rapidly growing population, with new features including:


• Three new entrances, and one further refurbished entrance

• A ticket hall five times larger than the original

• Eight new escalators

• Six new elevators providing step-free access The station has also undergone significant work in preparation for the new Elizabeth line that will run through it next year and will provide step-free access along its entire route. The expanded ticket hall and added escalators mean that the station is equipped to deal with a projected increase in demand of around 30% when the Elizabeth line comes into service.


The station upgrade has been designed so that it will be able to deal with future increases in demand, such as the planned Crossrail 2 project, which includes Tottenham Court Road on its route.


Tunneling starts to extend the London Underground Northern line to Battersea

The Northern Line Extension moved a significant step forward on April 11th as the first of two giant tunnel boring machines, ‘Helen’, began her 3.2km tunneling journey.


‘Helen’ and her sister machine ‘Amy’ were lowered 20 meters below ground in Battersea in February, in the shadow of the iconic Battersea Power Station. ‘Helen’ has now set off under south London to create the first of the underground tunnels that will extend the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line from Kennington to Battersea Power Station, via Nine Elms. ‘Amy’ will follow in around a month. The extension, targeted for completion in 2020, is the first major Tube line extension since the Jubilee line in the late 1990s.


As the 100-meter long tunneling machines advance forward, nearly 20,000 precast concrete segments will be put in place to form rings to line the tunnels. A conveyor system will then take the spoil from the tunnels up to barges on the River Thames. More than 300,000 tonnes of earth will be excavated by ‘Helen’ and ‘Amy’ in this way before the spoil is taken by barge to Goshems Farm in East Tilbury, Essex where it will be used to create arable farmland. Each machine is capable of tunneling up to 30 meters

a day with teams of around 50 people operating them. Tunneling is expected to take around six months to complete.


According to tunneling tradition, tunnel-boring machines cannot start work until given a name. Following a vote by local schoolchildren, the machines were named in honour of the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman, and British aviation pioneer, Amy Johnson, who was the first female pilot to fly solo from Britain to Australia.


Metrolink in Manchester UK celebrates 25 years at the top

On April 6th Metrolink celebrated its 25th anniversary, having tripled its original size to become the largest streetcar network in the UK. Now a sight familiar to millions, Metrolink first opened its doors on April 6th 1992, when passenger services started operating between Bury and Manchester Victoria. Services to Altrincham followed soon after, before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the network during a special ceremony in July that year.


Fast-forward 25 years, and the network has grown beyond all recognition, catering for more than 37 million passenger journeys a year and rising. While Greater Manchester has always enjoyed a rich history where streetcars are concerned, prior to 1992 one hadn’t operated since 1949 when the last service was withdrawn and replaced by buses. The concept of bringing streetcars back into service was born back in 1982 when a Rail Study Group was created to give the local rail network a secure long-term future by creating a new north/south link across the city centre that would be much easier for people to access. Consisting of members from Greater Manchester Council, GMPTE, and British Rail, this group developed the plans to create the UK’s first modern street-running light rail system. Ten years in the making, Metrolink’s opening heralded a new chapter in public transport and set the standard for other streetcar systems to follow.


Today Metrolink boasts an extensive 60-mile network, with 120 streetcars serving 93 stops at key destinations across Greater Manchester.



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Revised: June 2017