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NORTHERN IRELAND RAILWAYS

The Minister for Regional Development told the Assembly in May that a plan will emerge later in the year on the future of Northern Ireland's rail network after he received and had time to study the findings of a railway steering group which was set up late last year. Members of the Local Assembly had called for upgrading of the network and were critical of absence of funding to date.

An indication of the lack of investment for rail was shown in the announcement in June of Sub-Regional Transport Plan (SRTP) funding for local transport of £1,821m for traffic management and roads, £78m for walking/cycling, £450m for bus services, but only £6m for rail services up to 2015. The SRTP deals with the transport needs with the exception of the Belfast Metropolitan Area and the rail and trunk road networks, which are covered in earlier Transport Plans. Shortly afterwards the Government announced in a White Paper that £10 billion would be spent on UK railways by 2014 and that there would be no closures of rural rail lines.

PERFORMANCE

Enterprise   In July, performance figures based on independent research carried out in November 2006 were revealed. They show that 9 out of 10 passengers expressed satisfaction with the service. Mr Mal McGreevy, General Manager Rail Services, Translink, said ‘Punctuality is of particular importance to our passengers and we are pleased that this is now improving …’. NIR internal monitoring of the Enterprise for the first half of 2007 showed that 95.6% of arrivals were within 10 minutes of schedule.

‘The rating for staff attitude of 90%, is at its highest level since monitoring began in 1998. This positive outcome shows some indication of the investment we have made in staff training, especially since the introduction of the New Rail Service. We are starting to see growth in passenger numbers using the Enterprise services. However, while these results show some very encouraging feedback we cannot become complacent as customer satisfaction ratings overall have fallen very marginally by less than 1%’ [82.8% to 81.9%].

Mal McGreevy said that although annual passenger numbers had fallen back from the 900,000 figure recorded in 2001, they were rising. Traffic had risen from 822,000 in 2005 to 862,000 in 2006, with another 5% increase expected this year.

Mr McGreevy said that NIR and IÉ were keen to improve the service to achieve hourly departures, but that this would mean additional rolling stock. He said among the procurement options are refurbished IÉ Mk III carriages. Funding has still to be put in place, and another problem with the launch of an hourly service is the present track congestion, especially at peak periods on the approaches to Dublin Connolly.

Passenger numbers   The total number of passengers on the NIR network (excluding the Enterprise) has risen from 5.76m in 2001-02 to 6.89m in 2005-06 and to 7.72m in 2006-07. MR McGreevy said ‘We have experienced increases of 19% and 12% in the last two years, which makes us one of the fastest growing rail systems in Europe. As traffic congestion gets worse the passenger numbers are continuing to rise and our projection is that in 2007-08 we will be carrying more than eight million people on our network’. Mr McGreevy said that the growth on the Portadown line over the past two years meant that the equivalent of 1,000 cars were being taken off the M1 during morning and evening peaks. The Londonderry line passenger numbers have grown by 16.6% over the past year to reach just over one million. They have grown by 34% since 2001/2002.

Londonderry Line   Mr McGreevy said journey times on the Derry line had been eased by up to 10 minutes to allow for a number of 20mph speed restrictions in the Ballymoney area. Translink has applied to the Government for funding of £12m, which would enable the track between Ballymena and Coleraine to be upgraded. Mr McGreevy said some temporary repairs were already being carried out on the worst spots, but that track re-laying, probably next year, would mean the line being closed for a period. Ultimately, NIR intends to increase frequency on the Derry line to hourly departures. In the interim, NIR plans to introduce two new trains in the morning and evening peaks on the Ballymena-Belfast section.

INFRASTRUCTURE AND SIGNALLING

Antrim-Lisburn   The line has been out of use for periods since the end of February for renewal of the deck of OB32 near MP13 and subsequently for bridge inspections by the Roads Service and for a biodiversity survey.

Stations   Work on improving accessibility at stations has been taking place at many stations including Moira, City Hospital, Botanic, Bangor West, Cultra, Marino, Sydenham, Dunmurry, Lambeg, Hilden, Carnalea, Seahill and Lurgan (see JOURNAL 163). The £7m refurbishment project will see improvements including clear signage new shelters, lighting & seating and improved surfaces. In certain stations, where required, new ticket counters, new disabled toilets, new lifts, new ramps and new steps will also be provided.

These improvements will mean greater access for disabled passengers and a better environment. It will also ensure that these stations are fully compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act.

Work was expected to take between 6-8 weeks at each station. Restrictions on train stopping were necessary in many locations. The plan is to concentrate on intermediate stations on the Bangor-Newry line until December 2007. Bangor, Central Station and Great Victoria Street stations are omitted from this upgrade programme as work has already been carried out on these stations

Procurement   In June, NIR short-listed signalling and telecommunications contractors who would be invited to tender for various projects over a 3-year timescale. The majority of projects are expected to be valued between £50,000 and £1m. Companies selected were Grant Rail Signalling Ltd, Doncaster; Laing O'Rourke, Donaghadee; KN Network Services, Dungannon; Westinghouse Rail Systems, Wiltshire; Amec Spie, Surrey; Jarvis Rail, York; Thales Telecom Services, Reading; and First Engineering, Glasgow.

LOCOMOTIVES AND ROLLING STOCK

111-Class   111 was available during the summer and was normally used on permanent way trains. 8113 was out of service from mid-June until mid August, with 112 out of service in York Rd Works.

Data Recorders   Under the Railway Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006, NIR, must have On-Train Monitoring Recorders (OTMR) fitted to all passenger-carrying rolling stock from 31 December 2007. In July, NIR advertised for the supply and fitting of OTMRs complying with Railway Standard GM/RT2472. The system is the Hasler Teloc 2500 data recorder and it will be fitted to locomotives 111, 112, and 8113 (3 units) and to the 9 strong Castle Class (9 x Driving Motor Open Standard (DMOS) + 9 x Driving Trailer Open Standard (DTOS) = 18 units). The anticipated contract award date is mid-October 2007.

80-class   NIR has awarded a contract to Halcrow Group Ltd, Derby, to refurbish three 4-car 80-class railcars. The contract includes installation of AWS, TPWS, OTMR and refurbishment appropriate for a minimum of 5-year operational life. The contract is valued at £1.5m. In early August, power cars 8093 and 8094, which were due for refurbishment, were observed at LH Group, Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire. The following are expected to be refurbished: 8069, 8082, 8089, 8090, 8093 and 8094.

Gatwicks (Mk IIf)   With reduced commuter demand during the summer the locomotive hauled set was taken out of service after working its normal link, the 07:50 Portadown-Central, on Friday 22 June. It was hauled by 8113 on that date. It was replaced by a 3-car 3000-class. The set was used for crew training during the summer and was expected to re-enter service in September.

The contract to convert this train to push-pull by adding a driving trailer and modifying the locomotives was awarded to Engineering Support Group, Toton, Nottingham. It is valued at £400,000.

Train Cleaning   NIR operates a fleet of 131 passenger railway vehicles. In June, they advertised for train cleaning contractors. Lot 1 was for provision of Enterprise on-board train presentation services. Staff will be required for continuous cover 7 days per week. Lot 2 was for turnaround cleaning at Great Victoria Street to maintain train cleanliness during rush hour (Approximately 24 trains between GVS and Central, Monday-Friday) with 3 staff required to work 3-hour shifts, 5 days per week. Contract(s) will be for 3 years, expected to start on 1 January 2008, with the option of a 1-year extension.

  The remainder of this article appears in IRRS Journal number 164, published October 2007.

Copyright © 2007 by Irish Railway Record Society Limited
Revised: December 16, 2007 .

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