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Journal 187   



The Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy has appointed Frank Hewitt as Chair of the Board of Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company (NITHC) for a period of 4 years from 1 July to replace John Trethowan.

After only 3 months in the position, David Strahan, Group Chief Executive, Translink announced his departure in February to "devote his life to preaching the gospel". His replacement, Chris Conway, was announced in May and will take up duties in September. Chris, a native of Northern Ireland, is Managing Director of Tata Steel's sales and distribution business in Ireland.


With funding for the Translink group being reduced by £13m, 20% of funding, the company introduced a Voluntary Exit Scheme in March to achieve a reduction of up to 60 jobs at management, supervisory and administration levels throughout the bus and rail group. The scheme will cut management, overhead and administration costs by £3.1m annually.

With the proposed cut in funding Translink said that they were reviewing services. They initiated a public consultation process which “aims to identify what is most important to customers to help Translink best design the rail network to operate within allocated resources while protecting those routes most essential to customers.” During April the consultation focussed on early morning, evening and Saturday services on both the Bangor – Portadown – Newry line and the Larne line.

passenger numbers

NIR passenger numbers continue to increase at a fast rate. For the July-September 2014 period they increased by 4% over the corresponding period in 2013. During the same time period, weekly average rail passenger receipts increased by 4% from £0.81m to £0.84m. Bus passenger figures did not increase in the same period, with receipts declining by 2%.

During the October–December 2014 quarter weekly average rail passenger journeys increased by 8% from 0.26m to 0.28m since the corresponding quarter in 2013. During the same time period, weekly average rail passenger receipts increased by 7% from £0.83m to £0.89m. Bus figure increased by 1%. Compared to the same quarter 5 years ago, average weekly bus passenger journeys have decreased by 2% (1.45m in October-December 2009 to 1.42m in October-December 2014).

NIR Passenger Figures (millions)


Oct-Dec 13

Jan-Mar 14

Apr-Jun 14

Jul-Sep 14

Oct-Dec 14

Passenger journeys







Weekly average












Passenger miles







Weekly average












Passenger receipts







Weekly average






independent monitoring

The first 2015 issue of independent NIR Monitoring Results covers the period 29 September – 29 November 2014. Observation Ratings for trains were Reliability 100%, Punctuality of departures 100%, Punctuality of arrivals 98%, Standing within acceptable limits 100% and Staff wearing full uniform 99%. Individual Customer Performance Ratings for trains were Punctuality 85%, Cleanliness 85%, Comfort 87%, Availability of seating & time standing 79%, Information provided 86%, Helpfulness of staff 85% and Value for money 68%. Observation Ratings for stations were Queuing at peak periods 100%, Queuing at off-peak periods 100% and Staff wearing full uniform 99%. Individual Customer Performance Ratings for stations were Cleanliness 83%, Comfort 72%, Time taken to answer queries 85%, Directions for passengers 83%, Information on delays 78%, Helpfulness of staff 86% and Catering / Vending 75%. NIR said “Autumn 2014 continued as another encouraging period for NI Railways, driven primarily by positive passenger perception of ‘punctuality’ (85%) and ‘value for money’. Generally the report scores are all similar to or better than the Autumn 2013 monitoring period with the exception of ‘cleanliness’ for on-board trains, which has dipped slightly. Compared with GB operators… NIR achieved the top scores for ‘staff helpfulness’ and ‘cleanliness’.”


Belfast-The Border Due to the replacement of culvert UB218 at MP 773/4, the Belfast-Dublin line was closed between Portadown and Poyntzpass on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 March. Belfast-Dublin trains were replaced by bus between Belfast and Newry. Trains operated Portadown-Belfast and Newry-Dublin.

Level Crossings On Saturday 7 March Teachers / Broomhedge user worked crossing XD261 MP1011/4-1011/2 Lisburn-Moira was permanently closed.

Dargan Viaduct Translink has advertised for consultancy services for design checking for the double tracking of the Dargan Viaduct. The notice read “The current Dargan Viaduct was constructed 1994 to connect the Larne line with the rest of the network. The structure largely comprises single track between Yorkgate Station and Lagan Junction with the exception of a single passing loop at Donegall Quay. The passing loop was designed for 20m long carriages (rather than current 23m) and is too short for a modern 6 car set configuration. Combined with its proximity to Yorkgate Station is of limited operational benefit. Following the opening of the Beach Green-Antrim line in 2001 Ballymena and Derry/Portrush trains were diverted from the mothballed Antrim-Knockmore line to connect with Central via the Dargan Viaduct. Transport NI are currently progressing a separate project to develop a new Westlink / M2 / York St Interchange which will substantially interface with the Dargan Viaduct. A proposed access road would underpass the railway viaduct close to an existing pier. Further to an initial assessment using Translink's own Structural Framework consultants, Translink engaged with Roads Service's design team (URS) to undertake more detailed analysis for the sub-structure.

 The key objectives of this stage are:

   To confirm Proof of Concept for widening the existing viaduct.

   Design pier and pile strengthening solutions for twin track.

   Construct works for piers and foundations in Section A.

 The project scope includes:

   Category 3 Checking in accordance with Railway Standard NR/L2/CIV/003

   Design certification process which, in certain aspects, departs from the norm whilst maintaining a level of integrity acceptable to Translink.”

 Translink anticipate the contract duration lasting 6 months starting July/August 2015.

Procurement McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd, Newtownabbey, has been awarded a contract for tree surgery and dealing with invasive species. The EU Journal noted the “Contract Period is 4 years, commencing December 2014 with an estimated expenditure of £1.4m.”

NIR has placed an order with Windhoff, Rheine, Germany, for a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) for permanent way work including applying Sandite and water jetting. The specification included a modular design with options to allow swapping of optional equipment. It included weed spraying equipment. The tree surgery option includes a hydraulic arm fitted with a grabber. The wagon haul option requires that the MPV is designed and certified to tow and push one or more wagons. The MPV will be required to operate at maximum speed of at least 100 km/hr. It is expected that when delivered and commissioned it will replace 80-class railcars on Sandite duties. Translink’s published procurement plan indicates that value of the contract at £4m.

derry line

Line Closures The line between Coleraine and Londonderry was closed over the weekends of 25/26 April and 2/3 May for culvert renewal work MP731/4-731/2 near Bellarena and MP861/4-863/4 near City of Derry Airport. A temporary timetable applied but still provided an hourly service Belfast-Coleraine-Portrush. Two bus substitution services operated; Coleraine-Derry/Londonderry (direct) and Coleraine-Bellarena serving Castlerock.

Procurement In March NIR advertised for a design team for works associated with Derry Station. The advertisement noted “In March 1980 the original Waterside station (adjacent to the current station) was closed after services were reduced and the track layout severely rationalised. A new, smaller station was opened some 200 m closer to the Craigavon Bridge.”

“The current station site is located just off the Duke Street roundabout on one of the main arterial routes into the city. The site consists of a railway station, island platform, Park + Ride, sidings and a redundant train fuelling facility. Adjacent the existing park and ride is a Permanent Way yard including 2 railway sidings.”

“NIR intend to provide a modern, fit for purpose station, together with a modern railway infrastructure in Derry~Londonderry [sic]. In order to achieve this, there will be 2 associated projects:

Project 1 Bellarena Permanent Way Storage and Stabling Facility - Enabling project to develop a green field site adjacent to Bellarena Railway Station, Seacoast Road, Limavady. This project will allow the existing P'Way yard in Waterside to be relocated to Bellarena so that the site can be developed as part of Project 2.

Project 2 Derry~Londonderry Station including railway station redevelopment, platforms, canopies, Park + Ride ,P'Way and Signalling and Telecoms (S&T) works in Derry City.”

NIR noted that the “estimated construction value is approximately £11m:

Project 1 — Bellarena Site

— P'Way Works £480,000

— S&T Works £600,000

— Yard Works £650,000.

Project 2 — Derry~Londonderry Station Site:

— Construction £4.3m

— Ground Contamination £1m

— P'Way Works £2m

— S&T Works £2m … but [does] not include Railway S&T Engineering Services”.

“These costs are purely conceptual estimates prepared during the Inception Stage…”

In April, the Minister for Regional Development advised the Assembly “As part of the second stage of the procurement exercise, Translink will issue Invitation to Tender documents which will include the Project Option of redeveloping the old Waterside Station into a modern, fit for purpose railway station.”

Contract Award On 2 June the Minister for Regional Development announced that the contract for re-signalling on the Coleraine- Derry~Londonderry line had been awarded to Babcock. McLaughlin & Harvey were awarded the contract for the construction of the passing loop at Bellarena.

Work will begin over the summer months and be substantially completed by December 2016. Work will primarily be carried out at night but there will be weekend line closures.


Ballymena Translink has advertised for a design team including architectural, engineering and project management services for a project for an integrated bus and railway station. The advertisement noted “Ballymena Railway Station is a part 2 storey 1970's building. Adjoining the rear of the main building is platform 1 (Down direction). Platform 2 (Up direction) is currently accessed from the main building by an underpass and lifts/ramps. The Belfast bound platform is also accessible from the main Park + Ride facility which is located on the opposite of the railway line to the main entrance into the railway station.”

“The main passenger waiting area and part staff facilities are at a lower level than the surrounding site and platform level resulting in the need for steps and ramps. The waiting area is small and the platforms are not in view. The offices and staff areas are fragmented and underused. In general the building and platforms have limited aesthetic appeal.”

“A structural assessment of the existing subway carried out in 2012 recommended that it be replaced. A temporary propping structure has been constructed. A decision was taken to include the replacement or alternative access as part of the overall integrated station project.”

The advertisement indicated that the project would cost £5m - £6m.


Carriage Refurbishment Further orders for equipment for carriage refurbishment have been made. TXM Projects of Solihull, has been awarded a contract “for the supply of Enterprise train refurbishment services performed by suitably skilled and qualified staff working alongside NI Railways employees to enable component removal, component overhaul, component refit and testing.” It had been estimated that the value of this contract would be between £350,000 and £500,000.

Prostyle Ltd of Coventry has been awarded contracts for interior laminates and dado panels. Floors For Living NI Ltd. of Magherafelt has been awarded contracts for the supply of saloon and vestibule floor carpet. I M Kelly Rail Ltd of Whittlebury, Nuneaton, has been awarded contract for tables (at seats) and baby changing tables and Stanley Security Solutions (NI) Ltd of Belfast has been awarded contract for at seat power supplies. Stephens Catering Equipment, Ballymena, has been awarded contracts for catering and refrigeration equipment for the four catering cars. Ardee Coach Trim Ltd has been awarded a contract for powder coating services.

Links and Timetable In early May one of the two remaining De Dietrich sets in traffic was reduced in size by the removal of First Class carriage 9104. The set was observed on the 08:00 Belfast-Dublin link.

From 25 May the second of the three De Dietrich sets was withdrawn from service for refurbishment, with a CAWS fitted C3K taking over the 06:50 Belfast-Dublin, 09:35 Dublin-Belfast, 12:35 Belfast-Dublin, 15:20 Dublin-Belfast, 18:05 Belfast-Dublin and 20:50 Dublin-Belfast link. The roster is for a 3-car C3K set on Monday and Tuesdays and on the 06:50 and 09:35 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with all other services Monday-Sunday being worked by 2 x 3-car C3Ks. For example 3003 + 3004 worked the 12:35 Belfast-Dublin and 15:20 Dublin-Belfast on Friday 29 May. A trolley catering service was provided, but no First Class.

To compensate for the reduced capacity offered by the 3-car C3K on weekday mornings IÉ introduced a 07:55 Dundalk-Connolly Mondays-Fridays from Monday 25 May, departing Drogheda at 08:19 and arriving at Connolly at 09:03 in advance of the 06:50, which was scheduled to arrive at 09:07. The service was formed by a 4-car railcar.

The sole remaining De Dietrich link was the 08:00 Belfast-Dublin, 11:00 Dublin-Belfast, 14:05 Belfast-Dublin and 16:50 Dublin-Belfast link.

From Monday 1 June the 19:00 Dublin-Belfast and 21:35 Belfast-Dublin were altered. These are formed by an IÉ 5-car Premier Class ICR and these have superior performance to the 201-class locomotive hauled 8-carriage De Dietrich trains on which the original timetable was based. The 19:00 was accelerated and re-scheduled to arrive in Belfast at 21:05 instead of 21:15. Its 21:35 return to Dublin was re-scheduled to 21:15, with an arrival in Connolly at 23:12 instead of 23:50. Both also ceased to call at Lisburn.


Disruption On Friday 13 March Industrial action by public service workers including transport workers protesting at budget cuts resulted in the cancellation of all Translink bus and trains services. No NIR trains operated and IÉ operated only part of the Enterprise service between Dublin and Dundalk. These were 07:35, 13:20, 16:50 and 19:00 Dublin-Dundalk and 08:00, 11:48, 17:20 and 22:48 Dundalk-Dublin.

The remainder of this article appears in IRRS Journal number 187, published June 2015

Copyright © 2015 by Irish Railway Record Society Ltd.
Revised: January 04, 2016 .