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NORTHERN IRELAND RAILWAYS

TRANSLINK CHIEF EXECUTIVE

On 15 January, the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company announced the appointment of Mr Philip O’Neill, previously Translink’s General Manager – Bus, as Acting Chief Executive for Translink, with effect from that date. He replaces Mr Keith Moffat who left the company at the end of 2006.

 

PERFORMANCE

Further evidence of the resurgence in train travel following the introduction of the new C3K trains came from statistics published by the Department of Regional Development's central statistics and research branch. They revealed that weekly average rail passenger receipts rose by 24% from £340,000 in July 2006 to £420,000 in September 2006.

In January, Translink said patronage on NIR was up by 14% year on year. Traffic on the Londonderry line traffic increased by 22% on the previous year. Mal McGreevy, General Manager, Rail Services, said total carryings were projected to increase from 7.7m last year to 8.5-8.6m in 2007. ‘The introduction of our 23 new C3K trains has been a very significant factor in increasing our passenger numbers. Passengers enjoy the higher degree of comfort and appreciate the better reliability that we are now able to offer. Our Park & Ride facilities at Portadown, Lurgan and Moira stations are packed to capacity every day…’

Mr McGreevy said the company was preparing a funding proposal for another batch of new trains, which would be submitted this year to Government as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. He said: ‘We are currently working on what we are calling New Train 2010 project, and hope that we will get approval as part of the CSR in December. We would hope to have contracts in place in 2008, with the first new trains being delivered in December 2010 or early in 2011’.

‘But given that it will take time to train drivers and commission the new trains, it will probably be 2012 before they are fully in service’. In 2006, NIR had to delay the re-opening of the Larne line because of a shortage of drivers, but Mr McGreevy said this problem had now been addressed. He said that over the past year, NIR had been recruiting and training new drivers to handle the expanded operations. The number of drivers increased from 97 in January 2006 to 108 a year later, with a further 7 undergoing final training. The new timetable introduced on 21 January contains significant improvements in services and reverses some of the cutbacks introduced in the last timetable due to lack of drivers

Punctuality during the difficult months of October to December improved by an average of 19% on all four routes as compared with the same period in 2005. Reliability (percentage of trains running as planned) across all lines exceeded the Passenger Charter targets, while independent monitoring also found passenger satisfaction at its highest level since monitoring began, with areas such as comfort, cleanliness and courtesy of staff all achieving higher than 5 year average scores. The Consumer Council praised the performance of NIR, ‘NIR has met its autumn punctuality targets for the first time in many years... We congratulate Translink on this improved winter performance’.

‘Success on the railways has brought new problems in terms of more standing on trains and perceived value for money. Despite the introduction of new trains on some routes and improvements to punctuality, fewer than half of NIR passengers believe that the railways are good value for money’.

‘The growth in rail passenger numbers is a clear indication that if there is sufficient investment made in public transport, people will vote with their feet and get out of their cars. Now is the time to secure investment for more new trains - this is especially important on the Larne line where passenger satisfaction is lower’.

AWARDS

NIR won three awards at the HSBC Rail Business Awards in London on 28 February. NIR were winners of the ‘Rail PR Campaign of the Year’ for their rail safety communications program ‘Dead Cert’, they also claimed Highly Commended citations in the categories Rail Marketing Campaign of the Year and Internal Communications Excellence.

 

  The remainder of this article appears in IRRS Journal number 163, published June 2007.

Copyright © 2007 by Irish Railway Record Society Limited
Revised: August 12, 2007 .

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