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The NTA’s Rail Review, already the subject of much debate (both in railway and national media), was considered by Cabinet on 15 November 2016 and later published. It says the semi-State body needs an extra €103 million a year over the next five years to ensure its survival.

While less than 10 per cent of those who commute into and around Dublin travel by rail, worsening congestion on the capital’s roads is likely to mean commuting numbers, including those who travel by Luas, will rise from the current 7 per cent figure, the Review predicts.

However, the railways are failing, or unable to deal with, commuters in the other cities.

Just 1 per cent of people working in Cork, Limerick and Waterford travel by rail.

In Cork, houses have been built away from existing stations, rather than near them, making rail travel unattractive: “[This] is a major issue for the city and needs to be addressed,” the Review says.

Almost irrelevant Meanwhile, rail commuting is “almost irrelevant” in Galway. Fewer than 400 people travel into the city on the Galway/Limerick line. Galway’s scale and density makes proper commuter services unlikely “even in the long term”.

In Waterford, “the use of rail for travel to work is negligible and is likely to remain so given the populations and scale of demand”. In Limerick, rail will find it “extremely challenging to play a significant role”.

Some rural routes should be considered for closure, the Review argues. The Limerick to Ballybrophy (via Nenagh) line carries as few as 22,856 passengers a year, costing approximately €550 per passenger.

The Limerick Junction to Waterford line carries 35,018 passengers annually at a cost of €362.40 per head.

The Review says all five stations between Ballybrophy and Limerick – Roscrea, Cloughjordan, Nenagh, Birdhill and Castleconnell – and all four stations between Limerick Junction and Waterford – Tipperary, Cahir, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir – are among the 15 least-used on the network.

Critical Labour TD Alan Kelly has criticised closure calls, saying more investment is needed. Vital pieces of infrastructure should be protected and were not designed to make profits.

“The idea that only profitable public transport routes should be maintained would lead to the withdrawal of public transport from whole swathes of both urban and rural Ireland,” he said.

The Review also suggests the Ennis to Athenry line, which was revived in 2010 at a cost of €100 million, might be a target for closure, though its possible expansion is mentioned in the coalition deal.

Defending the link, Minister of State Seán Canney said passenger numbers had doubled over the past year, helped by online ticketing and more useful timetables.

Ten stations accounted for some 46 per cent of total boardings nationally and 48 per cent of total alightings. With the exception of Cork’s Kent Station, all of the top 10 stations were located in Dublin.

David Franks, chief executive of IÉ, said the State subvention must rise, or else fares will have to. The current level of funding is “unsustainable” and was the primary cause for the deterioration of the infrastructure.

Positives as well: Passenger numbers are continuing to climb, with fleet capacity currently under the demand curve. To solve this in the medium term, two proposals are in place. The first is the refurbishment of “14 Class 2700 sets”, with 11 sets in service and 3 spare. This is estimated to cost €300,000 per vehicle. The other option under consideration is up to 48 new ICR ‘B’ centre cars, although with 80 seats and no toilets (compared to the current 72 and 1 toilet). These are estimated to cost up to €2.6 million each. Both options require significant investment but are required to cope with rising passenger numbers.

The Review was posted for public consultation from 15 November 2016 until 18 January 2017

The full Review is available to view on


The results from the passenger census conducted on 19 November 2015 were released as both an independent report and as part of the Rail Review. As before, it was conducted on a “typical day”, with the favoured Thursday being used.

As before, the busiest stations were in Dublin (Connolly, Pearse, Heuston and Tara Street), the busiest train being the 08:00 Greystones – Malahide (1336 passengers total, 923 maximum at one time). A total of 141, 477 journeys were made, an increase of 13% over the similar survey done in 2014.

The full report is available on the National Transport Authority website.


The GDA Transport Strategy 2016-2035, approved by the Minister earlier this year, sets out how the vision for greater use of sustainable transport could be delivered by 2035 allowing also for a 29% increase in transport demand over that period.

The strategy outlines the heavy and light rail networks and the core bus network, as well as a supporting cycling network and demand management measures that are necessary to ensure that 55% of the trips to work in 2035 are made by sustainable modes (up from 38% in 2011).

The cost of all the measures in the strategy is €10bn, which averages at €500m each year over the 20-year horizon of the strategy. Delivering these projects will accrue an overall benefit to cost ratio of 1.5 to 1. However, the current capital funding for improvements to public transport are not at the levels required to meet the GDA Strategy goals.

Approximately €350m is provided each year for the next three years for public transport across the state which includes the funding required for steady-state funding of the rail network across the entire State. The Authority will shortly publish its statutory Draft Implementation Plan, which will set out what can be delivered within the current financial envelope in the next six years.

Growth in Travel Following a period of reduced transport usage and suppressed transport growth, both in relation to private car use and also public transport patronage, 2014 saw the start of a reversal of these trends. Public transport usage has increased for all modes since then – bus, Luas and commuter rail.  Paralleling the changes in public transport, car travel has also increased across the Dublin region since 2014.  Demand for travel is now on the increase and patronage on public transport is growing. To date in 2016, passenger numbers continue to grow with an estimated outturn growth of about 5% expected by the end of the year.

This trend of increased overall demand is expected to continue and accelerate, with further economic recovery and population growth envisaged over the next 5 years.

It is unlikely that all such demands can be met within existing service provision and capacity, particularly within the City and other urban areas where population growth will be highest, and where existing peak capacity is already well used.

What is being delivered now? Over the next year, the following transport improvements will be delivered:

•Luas Cross City will commence services at the end of 2017;

•Train services from the Kildare Rail Line linking with the City Centre through the Phoenix Park Tunnel have just commenced;

•A 10-minute DART service will be provided from early 2017; and

•Additional buses will be acquired and additional capacity added on busy routes currently experiencing high passenger numbers in peak hours.

What will be delivered as part of the Capital Plan up to 2022?

•Some additional bus fleet and improvements in bus corridors;

•Design and planning for construction of New Metro North;

•Extension of DART to Balbriggan and designs for electrification of commuter sections of Kildare and Maynooth lines;

•Redesign of DART Underground; and

•Construction of a new national train control centre.

However, the City region cannot wait for these projects to be delivered. Rail projects have a long lead-in time. Work must commence immediately on improvements to the bus infrastructure across the region in order to meet the growing demand and offer an attractive alternative to car drivers.

What needs to be delivered now?

•Accelerated development of bus lane provision on the Priority Bus Corridors forming the Core Bus Network;

•Further enhancement in terms of bus fleet numbers and bus services;

•Introduction of Bus Rapid Transit services on some high passenger volume bus routes;

•Provision of higher frequency and amended rail services on certain commuter routes into Dublin which requires investment in new rail carriages;

•Measures such as Park & Ride provision and fares initiatives; and

•Accelerated delivery of key elements of the cycling network.

In the short term, improvements in the core bus network are proposed until rail infrastructure can be built to match demand.


In a welcome move, the majority of rail fares were frozen at 2016 levels for 2017. However, Leap Card fares have moved to a distance-based rather than zone-based charging, resulting in some fare increases as well as decreases. The Dublin Short-Hop Zone (Leap Card Zone) has been extended to Sallins/Naas on the Heuston line and Kilcoole on the Rosslare line. Both should improve loadings, especially from an already busy Sallins, via the new Phoenix Park Tunnel service.

Key changes are:

Iarnród Éireann – Moving Sallins/Naas and Kilcoole into the Short Hop Zone, no increase in day Intercity fares, increase of 2% on Adult and Child Weekly and Monthly Intercity tickets

Luas - Merge Zone 3 and Zone 4 fares resulting in changes from -4.2% to + 7.4%, 10 to 20 cent increase on adult single cash fares, an d adult monthly and annual taxsaver fares + 9.9%.


The launch by the NTA of a public consultation on plans for Sandymount to Blackrock ‘bottleneck’ were reported in The Irish Times of 27 October 2016.

A continuous pedestrian and cycle route running from Irishtown, on the city centre side of the strand, to the Seapoint area of Monkstown is included in the proposals.

The closure of the railway level crossing at Merrion Gates to through traffic and a new link road between Merrion Road and Strand Road are also proposed in a consultation document released by the NTA and Minister for Transport Shane Ross. The scheme was put out to public consultation until 16 December 2016.

NTA chief executive Anne Graham said the scheme, if approved by An Bord Pleanála, would cost between €40 million and €48 million and would take two years to complete. The NTA confirmed the compulsory purchase of approximately 35 properties would be required.

It aims to improve the rail service as well as travel times for buses and cars, and to eliminate accidents and “near-misses” at Merrion Gates.

Part of the scheme involves a realignment of Strand Road, incorporating a new bridge over the rail line about 250m to the north of the current level crossing

The full details of the scheme and the consultation were available at


The Leap Family Card was a promotional ticket to encourage families to use public transport around Dublin during the 1916 commemorations of the Easter 1916 Rising. It could be used by 2 adults and up to 4 children (until their 19th birthday). It was valid for 24 hours after the first occasion of use on all Luas trams, scheduled Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann services, and DART and suburban trains within the Short Hop area.

It was a promotional ticket that could only be used until 31 December 2016. A maximum of 10 Leap Family Cards could be purchased per order, but were only available while stocks lasted. Users were warned that if they had more than one Leap Card, to ensure that they only put the one they wanted to use near the validator. If a Leap Family Card was validated by accident, it would automatically expire after 24 hours.

The Family Card proved to be popular and ceased to be available after 2 November.



On Wednesday 21 December, the Commission for Railway Regulation released their annual report for the year 2015.

Iarnród Éireann: Whilst Iarnród Éireann was taking a “noticeable different approach to safety regulation”, the report stated that it had successfully encouraged key staff to “implement improvements for the benefit of rail safety”. The CRR produced a draft Safety Management System report (with the help of DNV-GL, a High Reliability Organisation), which was rejected by IÉ. However a copy was leaked to the media, resulting in the draft being formally issued. This has resulted in “healthy tension” between the two organisations.

Key points:

Forming of an IÉ Safety Committee.

Signals Passed at Danger increased from 10 in 2014 to 15 in 2015 (down from 18 in 2013 and 22 in 2010).

18 other reportable incidents are listed, including 7 derailments (all in yards).

“The MkIV Intercity Carriages were authorised for service operation on the entire IÉ network during 2015”.

Transdev: A new SMS was adopted by Transdev in 2015, resulting in two audits. One highlighted minor non-compliances and the other resulted in no non-compliances.

Northern Ireland Railways: A minor audit on train crew was conducted during 2015. This highlighted a number of deficiencies regarding formal recording systems to monitor training and on-going competence.

Balfour Beatty: A number of areas required action to be taken during the audit of Q4 (the fourth quarter of the year) in 2015.

The full report is available at

The remainder of this article appears in IRRS Journal number 192, published February 2017

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