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In September, The Minister for Regional Development (Mr Murphy) told the Assembly: ‘The rail link between Belfast and Dublin is a key service, joining two major population and commercial centres. The link is designated as part of the Trans-European Network of rail services across the European Union. The success of the current service is a credit to the close working relationship that exists between Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnród Éireann. That continuing co-operation will be invaluable in bringing about further improvements to the service’.

‘The [North-South Ministerial] Council noted the discussions that were taking place between Iarnród Éireann and Translink on plans for the further development of the rail link, and it agreed to consider the outcome of those discussions at the next NSMC [North South Ministerial Council] meeting in the transport sector. Any such development will include options for the short and medium term, including limited-stop services, hourly frequency, removal of speed restrictions, and introduction of new rolling stock. The timing of the implementation of those plans will also be considered, and they will be phased in to take account of the availability of resources and the operational issues that are involved’.

‘There was a substantial discussion on the improvements that could be made to the Belfast to Dublin line, and both Administrations expressed a desire to move towards an hourly service’.

In November, organisations representing business interests north and south of the border, the IBEC-CBI joint business council, issued a submission to the NSMC calling for a ‘radical improvement’ in the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise service. Their submission noted that delays and reliability were a ’serious concern’ for business travellers. ‘Unless these problems are addressed quickly, the service will lose the confidence of users. The current schedule of 130 minutes for the trip from Belfast to Dublin is not competitive against road journeys. If the rail service was to operate at the average speed currently achieved on other mainline services in the Republic, journey time would be reduced to 110 minutes, while a non-stop trip could be accomplished in 90 minutes’.

They said rail should have a clear advantage because car journeys between Belfast and Dublin depended a lot on traffic condition and a fast, frequent and dependable train service would benefit business and the wider community.

Ciaran Rogan of Translink welcomed the call by IBEC/CBI for further investment in the railways. He said: ‘It is clear that investment in railways in Northern Ireland is delivering huge success and is the best case for the further investment outlined in the Executive's draft budget. The most recent results for the Belfast-Dublin rail line show passengers numbers growing strongly with an increase of 14% year on year. More people see travel by rail as the more convenient, better value for money and more punctual alternative to having to take a car’.

On 3 January, Enterprise fares were increased by an average of 3.4%. However, the most popular ticket types; the Enterprise Class, Standard adult singles and returns, were only increased by £1 and the promotional day return fare was not increased.

Punctuality and reliability results for the second half of 2007 show that 99.75% of Enterprise services ran as planned and almost 90% of all trains met charter standards for punctuality. 


In October, Translink issued a statement welcoming the draft Northern Ireland budget for 2008/09. The draft budget provided for an investment of £137m in railways, including:

The purchase of 20 new trains to replace existing rolling stock and provide additional capacity, with the aim of facilitating further growth

Londonderry Rail Line track life extension works north of Ballymena and the commencement of a major track relay project between Coleraine and Derry.

Significant improvement works on the railway line between Knockmore and Lurgan

Extension of the Concessionary Fares Scheme to introduce free travel on public transport to all those over 60 years and over (currently those over 65 years) but this excludes all-Ireland or cross border travel.

The Minister for Regional Development said ’The draft allocations would also provide for the introduction of Rapid Transit, which would provide us with an opportunity to dramatically change travel patterns in Belfast. Many cities around the world have used rapid transit to re-brand themselves, to get people out of cars and into high quality public transport, to address congestion, and to reduce pollution. The Department is exploring the best routes and technology and looking at all options to identify the best scheme for Belfast’.


In response to a question about the impact of the 23 new trains on passenger numbers the Minister for Regional Development told the Assembly: ‘Total passenger journey increases since the new trains were introduced are as follows:

Belfast to Bangor line - new trains were introduced between February and April 2005. Between 2004/05 and 2006/07 total passenger journeys increased from 1,517,000 to 1,957,000, an increase of 29%. Passenger journeys in 2004/05 were, however, depressed due to track re-lay on the line.

Belfast to Portadown line - new trains were introduced between February and April 2005. Between 2004/05 and 2006/07 total passenger journeys increased from 1,941,000 to 2,505,000, an increase of 29%;

Belfast to Derry/Londonderry line - new trains were introduced between January and September 2005. Between 2004/05 and 2006/07 total passenger journeys increased from 850,000 to 1,020,000, an increase of 20%’.

Figures released in September showed that there was a 12% increase in rail passenger journeys over the previous year to 8.6m journeys. In contrast, there was a 1% increase in Belfast City bus passenger numbers and Ulsterbus numbers were static. There has been a 34% increase in NIR passenger numbers since 2001/02.


Belfast-Dublin The line between Lisburn and Belfast closed from 21:00 on Saturday 1 September to 23:30 on Sunday 2 September for signalling upgrade work. Local trains were substituted by bus. Saturday’s 19:00 and 20:45 Dublin-Belfast and Sundays trains were substituted by bus between Lisburn and Belfast.

Antrim-Lisburn   The line has been used recently for driver training and training of tamper operators. In response to a parliamentary question, the Minister for Regional Development advised that £509,000 had been spent on ‘keeping the line in working order’ since its closure to regular passenger operations in 2003. A Member of the Local Assembly said ‘Since regular passenger services were suspended, nearly 200 trains have been on the line for driver training purpose and 11 trains were on the line for engineering works. In addition to this, the line was used by 24 regular trains during emergencies as well as by 7 empty trains in a support capacity during these diversions’.

Stations   Extensive station upgrade works continue as part of a £17m investment (See JOURNAL 163). Work includes improvements to accessibility, signage, shelters, lighting and surfaces took place at the following stations: Carnalea, Seahill, Cultra, Cultra, Marino, Holywood, Sydenham, Bridge End, Botanic, City Hospital, Adelaide, Balmoral, Finaghy, Dunmurry, Derriaghy, Lambeg, Hilden, Lisburn, Lurgan, Portadown, Scarva and Poyntzpass. Some platforms were closed for periods and trains did not call, but closures were well advertised. Moira up platform has been re-designated as 5-car capacity only.

Belfast Central won the best Large Station and Best Station Overall categories at the International Rail Station Awards.

Procurement   In November, NIR sought tenders for permanent way materials ‘to implement the Translink 5-year corporate plan. The potential requirement is for 11,000 rails and 100,000 sleepers together with associated fittings. This requirement is subject to Government’s final approval and corporate plan and award of funding. The requirement depending on engineering and design decisions will be selected from one of the following specifications, or any combination of same:

Delivery required between April 2008 & March 2012.

60 foot - 113lb rail to NIR specification for use with Pandrol clip concrete sleeper to NIR specification Fastclip complete.

Concrete sleeper to NIR specification for use with Pandrol clip.

Steel sleeper to NIR specification Fastclip complete steel sleeper to NIR specification.

Pandrol type clips and pads cast iron shoulders.

Switch and crossing - site specific.

Any associated specials of above e.g. provision for guard-rail would be within the contract’.

Sandite NIRs preparation for the leaf fall season included running day and night Sandite trains as well as a high-pressure water jetting train. Sandite afternoon trains ran York Rd - Portadown - Bangor - Central - Carrickfergus - York Rd. Sandite night trains ran York Rd - Portadown - Bangor - Central - Templepatrick - York Rd. They used 80-class power cars 8089 and 8097 specially equipped to spray the gel. The water jetting train was hauled by a GM locomotive and ran at night Fort William Depot - Portadown - Bangor - Central - Carrickfergus - Yorkgate - Templepatrick - Yorkgate - Fort William.


In November, NIR advertised for consultancy support for procurement and commercial services, legal services, technical maintenance and safety, project management services for the acquisition of new Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) trains. ‘The overall procurement project involves the supply by outright purchase or possibly alternative financing arrangement including leasing, delivery and commissioning of new passenger rolling stock, comprising of up to 20 diesel powered consists (either in 3 x 23m or 4 x 23m format) with options to procure up to 10 additional diesel powered consists of similar format and/or up to 20 intermediate vehicles. The rolling stock is to be used to provide high quality inner and outer suburban commuter services and express services between Belfast and Dublin …’

‘The supply of maintenance and/or the supply of parts, components, spares, consumables and/or technical support in respect of this new rolling stock and/or existing rolling stock currently in operation by NIR for a period of up to 15 years from final fleet acceptance. Delivery of the first vehicle to commence within 24 months of contract and delivery of all vehicles to be ideally completed within 20 months. The method of acquisition is likely to be by outright purchase although consideration may be given to alternative financing methods during the procurement process. The supply of a driver training simulator to be installed in Belfast. The trains should be designed to and constructed in accordance with relevant UK National Standards and EU TSI's applicable at the time of introduction into service’.


111-Class At year’s end, 111 and 8113 were available for passenger and PW duties, but 112 remained out of service in York Rd Works.

Data Recorders Derby Engineering Unit, Derby, have been awarded a contract for the fitting of data recorders on 450-class railcars and 111-class locomotives.

80-class The last remaining set, 8090 + 8733 + 8738 + 8069 was withdrawn from service after working the 17:15 Larne Town-Central on Tuesday 13 November. It returned to service on Thursday 17 January.

The driving trailers planned to be kept as part of refurbished 80-class sets are 8733, 8738, 8742, 8747, 8749 and 8752,

450-class The class primarily work Belfast-Larne and Coleraine-Portrush services, although they have been used on other services as required. On Thursday 30 September, sets 8453, 8456, 8458 and 8459 worked Larne line services with 8455 spare at York Road. In addition, 8090 + four + 8069 worked the 16:27 GVS-Larne Town.

De Dietrich A programme of suspension modifications is underway with the objective of improving ride comfort. The modification involved removing the drive rods with their link pins, flexible rings and adjusting nuts on both sides of each vehicle and replacing them with newly designed connections between the bolsters and the bogies. All work is undertaken at York Road Works and reports indicate that the ride comfort is much improved. First vehicle dealt with was standard 9208.

A new livery has been applied to De Dietrich vehicles on the Enterprise using vinyl coverings instead of painting. The new livery replaces the grey with a lighter shade of silver/grey and the green band at the windows is a lighter shade, which isn’t as a deep. A gold line is applied below window level and the doors are now a lighter shade of green all over. By Christmas a complete set had been dealt with.

Gatwicks (Mk IIf) The set of locomotive hauled carriages was not required during the summer when commuting demand was lower. It returned to service Monday 3 September when 8113 + 4 Mk IIf + Generator Van worked the 07:50 Portadown-GVS.

The same formation was observed passing Belfast Central at 18:05 on Thursday 20 September on a crew training run.

The set was temporarily strengthened on Monday 15 October when 111 + 6 Mk IIf + Generator Van worked the 07:50 Portadown-GVS. Next day, the same train was worked by 8113 + 4 Mk IIf + Generator Van.


A new timetable came into effect on 1 October. Additional services have been introduced on the Coleraine-Belfast line, where demand has increased substantially in recent years. New Monday-Friday trains include the 06:35 Ballymena-GVS, 07:18 Coleraine-GVS, 15:20 GVS-Ballymena and 16:47 GVS-Portrush. These had the effect of giving a half-hourly interval peak service from Ballymena, starting from 06:35. NIR report that the Park+Ride at Ballymena is now regularly full.

The remainder of this article appears in IRRS Journal number 165, published February 2008.

Copyright © 2008 by Irish Railway Record Society Limited
Revised: November 06, 2015 .

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