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Journal 183   NEWS TRANSLINK - NORTHERN IRELAND RAILWAYS

No Privatisation

In November the First Minister Peter Robinson MLA said that the Executive had no plans to privatise rail and bus services in Northern Ireland. The Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy MLA said he was against any suggestion that services should be put out to tender. Mr Kennedy said: "The [Assembly’s Regional Development] Committee's privatisation suggestion would inevitably result in widespread service cuts, something I am not prepared to support." He said he was "disappointed with the quality and thrust of the report" and could not support it. “Passenger journeys are rising at significant rates and last year alone rail journeys were up by 800,000 and bus journeys by 300,000. In fact I expect passenger journeys to increase by over one million this year, potentially exceeding 80 million… Reviews of punctuality, reliability and customer performance show that Translink is meeting the standards set for it.” A clause was included in the 2011 Transport Act requiring that most public transport services would continue to be provided by NITHCo/Translink. The Minister said "This is something I strongly support.”

EU Legislation

NIR is currently working on establishing separate Infrastructure Management (IM) and Railway Undertakings (RU) to comply with EU legislation: New World (EU 1370/1st Rail Package/Railways Infrastructure (Access Management and Licensing) Regulations (NI) 2005). Separate limited liability companies reporting to the NIR Board within the NITHCo structure are proposed. The Network Statement has been completed and published on the Translink website. The Track Access Application is complete and the Track Access Agreement is to be signed on 1 April. Other aspects are under preparationP

Passenger numbers

Passenger numbers continue to grow at a rate well above any predictions. Weekly average rail passenger journeys from April to June 2013 increased by 9% from 0.22m to 0.24m compared to the corresponding quarter of 2012. During the same time period, weekly average rail passenger receipts increased by 13% from £0.67m to £0.76m. In comparison, bus passenger journeys and revenue increased by 1%.

Compared to the same quarter five years ago, average weekly bus passenger journeys decreased by 6% (from 1.47m in April-June 2008 to 1.38m in April-June 2013), whereas, over the same time period, average weekly rail passenger journeys increased by 20% (from 0.20m in April-June 2008 to 0.24m in April-June 2013).

There were 11.5m rail passenger journeys made in 2012-13, an increase of 7% from 2011-12 (10.7m). Rail passenger journeys have increased by 16% this year over last year. Over a longer period the growth is more stunning. In 2006 NIR carried 6m passengers and the current prediction for 2014 is 13m. Passenger journey targets set for 2020 when the 4000-class were purchased will now be achieved in 2014.

With an hourly service throughout the day and additional trains half-hourly at peak period numbers using the Coleraine-Belfast section have been particularly good. An increase of 35% was noted in the pre-Christmas period in 2013 over 2012 even though there was an extra week in 2012. Standing is now common on many trains during the day even though there are two 6-car sets in operation on the route. On the Londonderry line the average loading was 180 passengers in a train with 200 seats, up 40% on the previous year.

On the Portadown line passenger numbers have risen from 1.8m – 1.9m ten years ago to 3.8m – 3.9m today. This has removed the equivalent of 10km of road vehicles from the M1 into Belfast in the peak period.

Apart from new 3000-class and 4000-class trains replacing aged 80-class and 450-class trains, improved frequencies (50% Coleraine-Belfast) and better journey times, another reason for increased carryings is improved punctuality. The network typically runs at 98% “on time”, dropping to about 96% during the leaf-fall season. Punctuality on the Derry line improved from 60% to 95% after introduction of the 3000-class trains. Smartphone “Apps” now provide real-time train information. To accommodate current flexible working arrangements NIR has introduced a 3-day ticket, a carnet that requires the day of validity to be pre-selected. Smartcards are also planned. Not surprisingly, NIR benefits from its best customer satisfaction ratings ever.

Future plans

The result of the increase in passenger numbers is that Translink now has a railway vision of “20 million passengers by 2020” and this has been adopted by the Department of Regional Development as a target. It will drive strategic planning and network design will be based on it. It is envisaged that this will require a doubling of trains operated and a doubling of the size of trains along with integration with bus services.

Journal 181 gave details of options called “packages” which were presented for consultation on future railway investment. The rise in passenger numbers has resulted in NIR having to consider larger trains and set its strategic goals and network plans based on these. This is because there are significant bottlenecks to running more trains. The Dargan Bridge between Yorkgate and Central is the busiest single track railway in the UK and Ireland on a trains operated per line per hour basis. Great Victoria Station (GVS) is already at capacity. The Londonderry line is largely single track. Plans were noted in these “packages” to double the Dargan Bridge and sections of the Londonderry but 9-car trains will still be required for the Londonderry line. This will involve re-modelling Coleraine station. Doubling of sections of the Londonderry line is expected to start at the Ballymena end to maximise timetable benefits.

A key feature of NIR plans to increase passenger carryings is to provide Park + Ride facilities. Already the £3.5m re-built station at Portadown opened in July 2013 needs additional car parking spaces and NIR has identified a site at the triangle of land between the former “Derry Road” and existing track that could be purchased. The newly refurbished “Eco Station” at Antrim has a 290 space car park and this is rapidly filling up. It is usually 75% full at 10:00. To enhance car parking at Ballymena an option for Park + Ride at Cullybackey has been identified and one south of Coleraine on its bypass is also a possibility.

A site at Lisburn West near Knockmore Junction has been identified for a new station with 500 car parking spaces. The location is to benefit from planned road improvements. The existing signalling at Lisburn is suffering from age related wiring problems called dry wire degradation and in conjunction with its planned re-signalling NIR hope to install crossovers at Knockmore to allow the third track be used for slower trains on the mainline, what NIR call a “dynamic loop”. The re-signalling will incorporate the new Lisburn West station.

Lurgan car park is also full and NIR are evaluating Park + Ride options at Craigavon. A new University Halt is planned at York St in conjunction with doubling the Donegall Quay-Yorkgate section.

NIR has been in discussions with the harbour authorities at Belfast, Larne and Lisahally (Derry) to investigate possibilities for rail freight. The largest customers generates 14 lorry movements per day so freight opportunities are not foreseen.

Londonderry line

In September the NITHCo Board was advised that the tender process for Coleraine-Londonderry Phase 2 had not led to the appointment of a contractor on value for money grounds and this then caused a delay in the project. Other preparation work continues including for a new passing loop at Bellarena and re-signalling the Coleraine-Derry section in 2015/16.

In 2016 an hourly Belfast-Derry service will be introduced. It will require five sets and have a turnaround of 20 minutes in GVS but only 6 minutes in Derry. The latter tight turnaround virtually precludes an additional station at Eglington as it could require an extra train to be held in Derry as well as possible double tracking some miles out from Derry to ensure a robust timetable.

Timetable

A new timetable came into effect on Sunday 8 December, valid until 13 December 2014. These dates are in line with EU legislation on timetable changes. Changes are relatively minor. From 6 January, an additional train will leave Derry at 16:13 and arrive in Coleraine at 17:01. The return service will leave Coleraine at 17:55 and will arrive in Derry at 18:42. Approximately 7,000 people use the Coleraine-Derry line each week.

Revenue protection

Between January and December 2012 twenty-two passengers were identified for ticketing irregularities that resulted in fines of £2,508 being collected. In addition, seventy penalty fares for fare evasion issued by rail staff resulted in fines of £1,579. One example quoted was an individual from Newry who was issued with an excess fare for £9.80, which he chose not to pay. He was taken to Court by NIR, convicted and fined £117.

Infrastructure

Level Crossings On the Londonderry line Reed’s User Worked Crossing XL29 at MP281/4 was closed from 19 October and McConaghy’s XL196 at MP781/4 was converted to Automatic Half-Barrier (AHB) type from 15 November.

Lisburn-Lurgan NIR plans to enhance the Lisburn-Lurgan section where ballast needs replacing. Following an earlier successful trial the IÉ ballast cleaner 781 may be used during night-time possessions as NIR do not have a ballast cleaner of their own.

Procurement NIR has advertised for the provision of plant and labour to supplement their own in-house resources. The work sites will be at multiple locations across the network. The successful contractor will be expected to work night shifts, weekends and during holidays as well as Monday to Friday. The contract will be for an initial period of two years, commencing in January 2014 and running until December 2015. There will also be an option to extend it for a period on two years.

The principal services to be provided are:

·       General Operatives with Personnel Track Safety qualification, Track Safety Co-ordinators, Engineering Supervisors and Persons in Charge of Possession

·       Road/rail excavators, road/rail trailers, road/rail dumpers, tipping lorries, tracked excavators and low-loader lorries

·       Certified and qualified plant operatives.

Other possible items to be delivered are spot road surfacing at level crossings, white lining of road pavements at level crossings, emergency call-outs, general callouts to supplement the in-house resources, track welding and weed spraying. The estimated value, excluding VAT, of the project is in the cost range of £1m-£1.5m per year with and overall value of £4m-£6m if the contract is extended to its maximum of 4 years.

STATIONS

Belfast Transport Hub (Great Victoria Street) In October the Minister for Regional Development launched Translink’s proposals for a Bus and Rail Transportation Hub on the 22 acre site incorporating GVS Station, Europa Bus Centre, bus storage yards and warehouses in Translink ownership. Translink said “We would hope to operate the majority of our trains including our cross border Enterprise train services from the new Transport Hub. This will mean passengers will have greater connectivity with train, bus and coach options offering more attractive, integrated and accessible travel choices; with more space available, there is also more opportunity to increase service capacity too.”

NIR envisages that the new GVS Station will have six or more platforms, with one dedicated to the Enterprise. These platforms will be 9-cars long to take into account the rapidly growing passenger numbers. The existing GVS has four platforms. It is at its limit today with 36 in/out movements in the peak hour and is the busiest terminal in UK and Ireland on a train per platform per hour basis. It is currently envisaged that work could commence in 2016 with completion in 2018/19. The project will require Government funding. The NITHCo capital expenditure programme notes projected expenditure of £525,000 in 2013/14, £3,072,000 in 2014/15 and £8,000,000 in 2015/16.

NIR has also protected the formation for a third track from Balmoral to GVS.

Londonderry The public consultation on options for replacing the existing station clearly favoured restoring services to the original B&NCR station over a new station at the Peace footbridge on the River Foyle. It is envisaged that any new facility will accommodate 9-car trains along with the ability to run-round trains. However, no funding is currently available for this work.

Enterprise

De Dietrich Sets The De Dietrich carriages on the Enterprise have been in service for 16 years and are due a half-life overhaul and refurbishment. In December NIR advertised for system overhaul, exterior enhancement, re-livery and the following new systems to be fitted: Train Management System (TMS), Passenger Information System / Passenger Alarm Systems / Public Address (PIS/PAS/PA), Seat Reservation System (SRS) and CCTV.

“The trains currently have an integrated TMS with PIS/PAS/PA system but this is now unreliable and with a degree of parts obsolescence. SRS and CCTV systems are not currently fitted. Interfaces with other train systems will be considered to avoid duplication and ensure compatibility. This will include the on-board Nomad passenger Wi-Fi system which was installed in all carriages in 2012. This installation included an Ethernet back bone.”

“It is recognised that the current configuration of the TMS system and integration with the PIS is unusual. However, the TMS is quite basic in function and significantly enhanced functionality will not be specified. The current TMS functionality includes monitoring and control of a small number of systems e.g. toilets, lighting, HVAC [heating ventilation & air-conditioning], WSP [wheel slip protection], parking brake status, electrical load management, fault logging for above. System status is indicated in a panel in each coach visible to the conductor. Ideally with a new TMS, crew interface for monitoring and control is managed through a new MMI [screen] in the DVT, perhaps duplicated in the driving cabs…”

“The new SRS system will include a display about each seat position allowing the seat reservation to be displayed and updated. The seat reservation system will be installed in all De-Dietrich carriages apart from perhaps the catering carriage. A base station is not required as it is expected to drive the system via the existing Irish Rail system which communicates by Wi-Fi providing a passenger seating manifest to each InterCity train in a timely manner…”

“The new CCTV system is expected to include forward facing cab cameras for 4 DVTs and 8 locomotives and 6 cameras per saloon. The system must record in high quality format and hold a minimum of seven days of video footage from each camera.”

“The project will be completed by November 2015”. The mid-life refurbishment will require trains to be out of service for “several months” with work overall taking about 2 years. Other refurbishment work will include interior trim re-fit including replacing the ceiling carpet with a different covering as well as mechanical work such as brake overhauls, etc. In January NIR was advised that the Enterprise refurbishment project would receive EU funding.

Replacement Trains NIR would like to replace the existing trains completely by 2025, preferably with high-speed electric powered stock following line electrification and re-signalling and not by under-floored diesel engine railcars. Enterprise sets put up approximately 250,000 miles/year in comparison with the rest of the NIR railcar fleet which averages about 75,000 miles/year. NIR’s analysis indicates that railcars are “far too expensive” to operate and maintain on high-mileage services in comparison with diesel locomotive hauled trains, but NIR does not believe that many suitable diesel locomotives meeting emissions standards will be available by 2025. Railcar diesel engines require overhaul at 250,000km (155,000 miles), 500,000km (310,000 miles) and complete replacement at 1,000,000km (621,000 miles). An hourly-frequency 90-minute journey time including stops and requiring 5 sets is envisaged. However, hourly Belfast-Dublin services are not envisaged in the immediate future as it would require additional funding from both governments.

In January the Irish Minister for Transport Dr Varadkar said that he plans to redevelop the Belfast line, which he said "It's falling into decline, quite frankly. There's been a lack of investment in recent years."

Generator Vans The former IÉ Mk III Electric Generator Vans (EGVs) in De Dietrich service have been taken into NIR ownership and given additional numbers in the NIR fleet list: 9602 on 89604 (IÉ 7604), 9604 on 89605 (IÉ 7605), 9606 on 89608 (IÉ 7608) and 9608 on 89613 (IÉ 7613).

LOCOMOTIVES & ROLLING STOCK

3000-Class NIR has placed and order with TTG Transport Technology Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia, for a Standalone Driver Advisory System (S-DAS) for the 23 3-car 3000-class, which entered service in 2004/2005.

“Since these trains went into service the cost of fuel has continued to escalate. NIR believes that there is significant scope to reduce the fuel consumption of these trains by using technology to enable operation of the trains to an idealised speed profile on each route. This technology, supported by appropriate train driver training, is required to deliver at least a 5% reduction in fuel consumption across the Class 3000 fleet.”

“NIR have reviewed existing technology and are of the firm view that S-DAS is the most appropriate technology to support delivery of the required fuel consumption savings. The system will include a processing unit, GPS location, driver display, a base station and communication links. It is envisaged that this will be a stand-alone system but may have some train system interfaces… Options will be included for systems to fit up to a further 30 train-sets.”

4000-Class The class is powered by an MTU engine and a ZF gearbox. They deliver approximately 15% better fuel economy than the 3000-class, which is powered by a MAN engine and Voith transmission. One reason for this is that there is no auxiliary 80hp engine running continuously to provide light, heat and power as these are fed from the main engine. When the MTU/ZF engine is in “overrun” [not powering] it supplies auxiliary power unlike the MAN and the overall 4000-class engine-transmission package is 2.5 tonnes lighter.

Fleet Usage The timetable excluding Enterprise requires 31 diagrams on a weekday. Three links require 6-car sets – 2 on the Londonderry line, 2 on the Portadown line and 2 on the Larne line – resulting in 37 out of 43 3-car sets in daily usage. With set 3009 out of service after sustaining skirting damage in a collision with a car there is not much scope for increasing either train numbers or train sizes.

The “New Trains 3” programme plans to convert all 3-car 4000-class into 6-car sets. By 2020 the fleet is expected to be composed of 20 6-car 4000-class and 23 3-car 3000-class.

80-class The Sandite train season started at the beginning of October using the now all yellow set 8069-8097-8752-8094. Additionally a water-jetter track machine operated nightly York Rd- Portadown- Bangor- Carrickfergus- Yorkgate- Antrim- York Rd.

NIR CAPITAL EXPENDITURE PROGRAMME 2013/14 TO 2015/16

NIR’s published capital expenditure programme is noted below:

PROJECTS (£000s)

2013 / 14

2014 / 15

2015 / 16

Coleraine - Londonderry Track Renewal - Phase 2

3,419

10,249

3,251

Class 3000 Overhaul (Ph 1)

2,100

2,100

2,100

Class 4000 Overhaul

1,498

1,628

1,550

Ballast Cleaning wagons

10

50

3,940

Knockmore-Lurgan Track Rehabilitation

128

0

3,804

Next generation ticketing

100

0

2,833

UWC Safety Improvement Programme

457

401

1,285

Lisburn - Lurgan S&T Cables Renewals

1,422

0

0

Enterprise Ph. 3 Overhaul

1,417

0

0

Hand Held Terminals Replacement

935

935

0

Lisburn Interlocking Renewal

26

185

812

Bridge Refurbishment & Strengthening Programme

202

402

403

Larne Line Signalling Enhancements

50

53

897

Ballast Cleaning Machine (Lease)

0

0

869

Embankments & Cuttings

151

301

302

Minor Works / Capital Spares

240

241

242

Interim Sandite Vehicle (Class 80/Class 450)

32

291

277

Relay Room Fire Suppressant Systems

230

230

138

Signal Sighting and Risk Management Programme

113

209

200

Portadown Station

517

0

0

Signalling Minor Projects

101

201

202

Derry New Station - wip

0

52

448

Bridge Examination & Assessment - Phase 2

115

175

175

Lisburn West - New Halt and Park + Ride – wip

456

0

0

UB190 (Bann Bridge Coleraine) – Refurbishment

0

221

229

Signalling & Telecoms Asset Management

1

213

235

SMS / Mobile Applications RTI – wip

0

35

410

Engineering & Staff Facilities

0

0

441

UWC 196 Reconfiguration - Brolly's / McConaghys

426

0

0

Antrim Station

408

0

0

UB453 (Glynn) - Bridge Replacement

13

16

377

Replacing Air Conditioning gas with R22

4

89

307

Moira Station - New Footbridge

394

0

0

Portadown PW Base

368

0

0

Ballast Wagon Refurb.

358

0

0

Bridge Underwater Remedial Works

28

282

40

Support Vehicles

310

200

140

Dagger Road Embankment Strengthening

0

0

331

Signal Replacement Switches Upgrade

0

23

306

IT Technology Refresh Ph 2

71

125

125

Data Gathering (Balance Scorecard)

70

218

24

Vegetation Management

100

100

101

Plant & Equipment

100

100

101

Lurgan Station Refurb.

5

20

275

Ballymena subway replacement

80

215

0

Adavoyle and Brackagh Embankment Stabilization

28

52

196

Yorkgate-Donegall Quay Dualling (Dargan Viaduct) wip

27

10

238

Lurgan Level Crossings Signalling Alterations - wip

23

0

250

Lineside Fencing Programme

0

0

252

Sea Defences Programme

0

0

252

Ballymartin / Templepatrick Passing Loop – wip

25

25

201

Projects with a capital value of less than £250k

2,630

1,751

1,597

Optimism Bias Reduction

(1,611)

(4,326)

(6,551)

NIR TOTAL

17,577

16,454

23,604

OPERATIONS

Christmas Extras On Saturdays from 30 November until 21 December additional services operated for shoppers. This allowed the half-hourly Portadown service to be speeded up. From Portadown towards GVS every departure from 09:15 to 20:15 operated as an express service between Lisburn (xx:09 and xx:39) and GVS (xx:19 and xx:49). An additional all stops service departed from Lisburn to GVS at xx:11 and xx:41, two minutes after the express. From Belfast GVS to Portadown departures from 09:10 to 20:10 operated all stops as far as Lisburn (xx:32 and xx:02) where they terminated. An additional express departed GVS at xx:26 and xx:56 calling at Lisburn (xx:35 and xx:06), Moira, Lurgan and Portadown only (xx:03 and xx:33). These extra trains were provided by one extra set and two crews. This low cost enhancement was well received and is planned to be repeated in 2014.

 

The remainder of this article appears in IRRS Journal number 183, published February 2014 

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Revised: July 04, 2014 .