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Journal 186   



General Manager (Rail Services)

Mr Mal McGreevy, General Manager (Rail Services), has advised that he will be retiring in 2015. Mr McGreevy has responsibility for rail operations, engineering and maintenance of rolling stock and has overseen a period of unprecedented passenger growth and improvements in trains and rail services.


In November, the Department for Regional Development advised by way of public consultation note that its budget for 2015/16 would be reduced by £65m. They are seeking views on the proposals. The reduction for Translink (bus and train) could be £15m, equivalent to 20% of funding received. Translink Group Chief Executive David Strahan said that this reduction may lead to off-peak service reductions and reduced frequency on the Larne and Newry services.


NIR increased fares by an average of 4.5% from 16 February. This follows a fares freeze of almost two years


Passenger numbers on the Coleraine-Belfast line increased by a third between 2011/12 and 2013/14, equating to an increase of over 400,000 passengers journeys in three years and taking passenger numbers from over 1.2m in 2011/12 to over 1.6m in 2013/14. The Minister for Regional development Mr Danny Kennedy MLA said: “There has also been passenger growth on the Londonderry to Coleraine stretch of the railway network, and the completion of Phase 1 of the track re-lay on this stretch has played a key role in this … Across Northern Ireland rail passenger journeys have increased by approximately 2.5m over the period from 2011/12 to 2013/14.” The Minister welcomed the significant upturn in rail passenger growth. He said: “In recent years there has been a significant growth in numbers choosing to use the railway as a mode of transport across Northern Ireland.”

“The Railway Investment Prioritisation Strategy published recently sets out the priorities for my department’s investment in railways capital grant over the next 20 years. This includes proposals for upgrading the Coleraine to Belfast corridor. My first priority is track maintenance and the improvement of passenger capacity on the existing network. The strategy includes a number of projects on the Northern line between Coleraine and Belfast for track works, station improvements and Park + Ride facilities. As passenger demand increases, Translink plans to purchase up to 60 additional carriages which will allow the introduction of longer trains or additional services to extend passenger capacities, including on the Northern line.”

“The capacity of the Northern line to carry more trains will depend upon removing potential track bottlenecks around Belfast. There are proposals for dualling [sic] of the single track crossing of the Lagan at Dargan Bridge and adding an additional line from Lagan Junction to Central Station. This will help improved timetabling of services into Belfast. In the longer term, the Strategy commits Translink to consider options to enhance timetabling and shorten journey times on the Northern line by either dualling [sic] the existing single line track between Bleach Green and Antrim or re-opening the Antrim to Knockmore/Lisburn line.”


Belfast-The Border On Thursday 9 October 8113 ran light engine to Antrim where it picked up loaded ballast hoppers. The train ran via the Antrim-Lisburn line to Lisburn, dropping ballast at locations en-route to Poyntzpass, where the wagons were left. The locomotive then ran light engine to York Rd. On Sunday 12 October 8113 worked a ballast train Lisburn-Poyntzpass, dropping ballast between Lurgan and Portadown.

On Sunday 2 November 8112 ran light engine York Rd-Poyntzpass where it picked up loaded ballast wagons. It ran to Portadown and returned to Poyntzpass where it left the wagons for re-loading. 8112 then ran light engine to York Rd. A further train operated on Sunday 9 November when 8112 operated two trips to Lisburn.

On Thursday 4 December 8112 + 6 ballast hoppers worked Poyntzpass-Dundalk and return. They departed Dundalk at 12:37 after a 20 minute run around.

Lisburn-Antrim In October NIR ballast tamper and ballast regulator operated on the branch following ballast drops earlier in the year. They were based in Lisburn for this work.

From 17 January the loops at Crumlin and Ballinderry have been taken out of service and removed. There are now no crossing places between Antrim and Lisburn.

Sandite The autumn Sandite programme again used the sole remaining 80-class railcar. The train was the same as last year and consisted of 8069+8097+8752+8094, with Sandite dispensed from 8097. Trains started on the evening of the 28 September with runs to Portadown, Bangor, Carrickfergus and Antrim. Daytime runs started on 6 October. The daytime route was York Rd -Portadown – Bangor – Belfast – Carrickfergus  - York Rd. The train operated reliably during the season.


Cost Estimates In November the Minister for Regional Development told the Assembly that cost estimates for the second phase of the Coleraine-Derry upgrade project had risen from £20m to an estimated £40m. He said that Translink had previously used figures that were "not based on fact".

On 14 November Translink Chief Executive David Strahan told staff “You may have seen coverage of the recent statement by the Minister for Regional Development in relation to 'Phase 2' of the work to re-lay the rail line between Coleraine and Londonderry. This week I attended the Committee for Regional Development to give some background. I reiterated our commitment to the Derry rail line – we want to see it fully re-laid and modernised. We successfully completed the first phase of the re-lay on time and on budget and many thousands more passengers are travelling on the line. It is a real success story and our priority is to deliver an hourly train service.” Figures showed that the annual number of passengers on the line has increased by 630,000 since 2002.

The Committee for Regional Development held a meeting in Derry in January to review the issue. The committee was told that there had been only a single response to the original tender but that 4 contractors had now expressed an interest.

At the meeting Translink said that “subject to the successful completion of a tender process, work on phase 2 of the project to re-lay the railway line between Coleraine and Derry is expected to commence in May 2015.”

Procurement Accordingly in November, NIR issued a new enquiry for the “provision of signalling and telecom design and build services for the Coleraine-Derry~Londonderry Renewals Project Phase 2…”

“A Route Relay Interlocking system is to be designed and constructed along the 33.5 mile long single line route. A new passing loop will be designed and constructed at Bellarena Station. The existing passing loop at Castlerock will be removed and replaced with a plain line section of track. There are currently three signal boxes on this railway line. All signalling control is to be consolidated into the Coleraine Signal Box and the existing signal cabins at Castlerock Station and at Derry~Londonderry Station will be closed under this scheme.”

“A number of User Worked Crossings along this railway line have warning times below those recommended in the Railway Safety Principles Guidance. Under this project, the arrangements at the User Worked Crossings will be made compliant with the Railway Safety Principles Guidance document by the provision of designed Signalling and Telecoms solutions.”

“The anticipated design period is from April 2015 until March 2016. The anticipated construction period is from October 2015 until December 2016. Throughout the construction period, the timetabled train services will operate on the Coleraine to Derry~Londonderry line. The majority of construction activities will take place during overnight engineering possessions in ‘Green Zones’ supplemented by some daytime works in ‘Red Zones’. Periods of weekend possession may be available for identified weekend periods and a ten day closure period during the testing and commissioning stages.”

“… A third party is to be employed by NIR to design and construct the civil engineering and permanent way works associated with the passing loop at Bellarena and for the removal of the existing passing loop at Castlerock.”

“The estimated value, excluding VAT, of the project is in the region of £30m.”


GVS Transport Hub Translink has invited the public to contribute ideas to aid the design of the new hub. They expect Enterprise traffic to increase with journey times being reduced by 10 minutes when the service moves to GVS.


Carriage Refurbishment Procurement work continued for the Enterprise refurbishment project. NIR advertised for the provision of powder coating services for table legs, luggage racks, door standback grab poles, glass partition frames and seat back stop rails. NIR also advertised for fabricated components for the following main areas: upgraded toilet area, upgraded Catering Cars, new table legs and brackets in each Catering Car, interior trim items and other ad hoc fabrications.

Part of the refurbishment work includes the supply of equipment for the overhaul of the Catering Cars. NIR advertised for the following items of refrigeration equipment: Display type double compartment full height unit, under counter half height type and portable galley area units. Another tender covered catering equipment: 6 slot toaster, 8 slot toaster, water boiler, medium duty grill, Salamander grill, Merrychef E3 Oven (or equivalent), dry heat Bain Marie, bean to cup coffee machine, single Panini grill, microwave oven, 4 ring electric hob and an option to provide service contract for an initial 3 year period for all equipment.

Prostyle Ltd., Coventry, has been awarded a contract for seat refurbishment and upgrade. David Rees Ltd., Ashbourne, Co. Meath has been awarded a contract to refurbish 112 Tebel passenger and baggage access doors, 52 Weiner vestibule doors and 24 GEZE toilet doors. A contract for the supply of body side window blinds has been awarded to Georges Halais Equipement, Moranqis, France.

Contracts for refurbishment/re-engineering of existing pelmet panel and luggage racks and for supply of new steel/aluminium centre ceiling/lighting diffuser assemblies have been awarded to Teknoware Oy, Lahti, Finland.

Carriage refurbishment work is now underway at York Road with IÉ refurbishing locomotives in Inchicore as noted elsewhere. In December 9204 was observed being shunted at York Road. It was in the new livery and also carried European Vehicle Number (EVN) 50 70 2892040-7.


A new timetable was introduced on 17 November, which NIR stated was “in order to improve capacity and service frequency. The changes have been introduced in time to accommodate Christmas shoppers travelling by train at weekends.”

Changes included:

·  A new Sunday timetable on the Bangor line, resulting in better connections for those wishing to travel on the Enterprise or on Derry / Portrush lines

·  The Saturday timetable between Portadown and Belfast offers faster journeys and increased capacity. Between 10:00 and 18:30 Portadown-GVS trains run non-stop Lisburn-Belfast in both directions, followed by a stopping GVS-Lisburn service

·  The Sunday timetable Belfast GVS-Coleraine (Portrush) is hourly from 09:10 until 21:10 and from Coleraine from 09:19 until 21:19 - almost doubling the number of services. Derry remains two-hourly frequency.

Enterprise services were also adjusted. With the withdrawal of one De Dietrich set for refurbishment an IÉ 5-car Premier-Class 22000-class ICR now operates one link. To ensure this set returns for inspection and maintenance on IÉ each night and to avoid having to train NIR crews, a change was made in the last service from Belfast to Dublin. The 20:10 Belfast-Dublin has been deferred to 21:35 to allow it be formed by the 19:00 Dublin-Belfast. The ICR link is 07:35 Dublin-Belfast, 10:35 Belfast-Dublin, 13:20 Dublin-Belfast, 16:05 Belfast-Dublin, 19:00 Dublin-Belfast and 21:35 Belfast-Dublin. The ICR then works empty to Drogheda at 00:05 for maintenance and inspection, returning from Drogheda at 05:20.

The Sunday Enterprise timetable was radically re-cast. Departures from Dublin are now at 10:00 (ICR), 12:00, 14:00, 16:00 (ICR) and 19:00 instead of 10:00, 13:00, 16:00, 18:00 and 19:00. Departures from Belfast are at 09:00, 11:05, 13:05 (ICR), 16:05, and 19:05 (ICR) instead of 10:00, 13:00, 15:00, 16:00 and 19:00.

IÉ ICR sets 22036 - 22039 have been fitted with AWS, TPWS and NIR train radio to work this link. In advance of their introduction onto the Enterprise service, 5-car ICR 22036 operated a trial 07:30 Dundalk-Belfast Central and 10:10 return on Sunday 5 October to test these systems. Set 22037 was trialled on Sunday 19 October. Set 22039 operated a trial Connolly-Central and return on Wednesday 28 January.

The 76 De Dietrich First-Class seats arranged 2 + 1 have been replaced by 36 Premier seats arranged 2 + 2 in the ICRs. This reduction in both quantity and quality of the first-class offering has generally not been favourably received by regular business travellers. The number of standard class seats has also been reduced from 302 to 258, noticeable on already full trains such as the 10:35 Belfast-Dublin on Saturdays.


Reliefs On some Saturdays during the run up to Christmas reliefs were provided to the 10:35 Belfast-Dublin, but later changed to the 08:00 Belfast-Dublin instead. On Saturday 6 December 3-car CAF 3003 operated a relief ahead of the 08:00 Belfast-Dublin.

Disruption On Friday 14 November heavy rain resulted in disruption to transport services. The Belfast-Dublin line was closed by flooding between Portadown and Newry which affected signals. Bus transfers operated Belfast-Newry. The line remained closed until the afternoon of Monday 17 November and speed restrictions remained in place for some time afterwards at Tanderagee MP821/2-823/4 and at Brackagh Bog MP85-851/2.


Safety Prosecutions NIR said that between July 2013 and July 2014 78 prosecutions cost offenders nearly £17,500 in fines and costs. The majority of these were due to motorists ignoring warning signals at level crossings or attempting to ‘beat the barrier’ at a level crossing as the warning lights were flashing or the barriers were descending. Ian Campbell, Head of Rail Operations at Translink, said “While the overall number of safety related incidents in the past 12 months is comparable to previous years, the total cost to offenders has more than doubled in the past year. With an average cost of around £225 and the largest amount being £669, these are significant amounts of money for an average motorist… Our CCTV cameras which are located at the majority of crossings throughout the network capture high quality footage which has been successfully used as evidence in several level crossing misuse prosecution cases.”

Dismissal Hearing An unfair dismissal tribunal hearing found that a train driver lodged his appeal outside the permitted time but that it would have found against him anyway. The driver had been dismissed for "gross misconduct" after his train passed a signal at danger (SPAD) while he was standing up away from the controls using an electronic tablet between Adelaide Depot and Great Victoria Street in January 2013. He had been charged with four incidents of gross misconduct, including driving a train in a dangerous manner, endangering others by ignoring safety rules and unacceptable behaviour likely to bring Translink into disrepute.

The remainder of this article appears in IRRS Journal number 186, published February 2015

Copyright © 2015 by Irish Railway Record Society Ltd.
Revised: September 02, 2015 .