Thursday, 7 February 2008

The Misery of Irish Rail.


Easing back into the blog after that long poteen-induced lay-off, Gombeen Man is going to brazenly lift a piece from the Irish Times Pricewatch column - which appears every Monday.

It concerns the notorious Dublin-Maynooth line, on which Irish Rail has seemingly been slower to add carriages than the developers have new apartments along its route - a so-called SDZ (Strategic Development Zone).

On his sojourns into the Big Smoke - usually to the Central Bank to change hoards of old money found in long-forgotten hiding places around his whitewashed cottage - he too has been known to use this very line.

Railing against shorter trains

A reader from west Dublin was prompted to get in touch after modifications made to his commuter rail service left him and his fellow passengers squashed like sardines into the carriages daily. "It takes a perverse talent - not to mention a hard-necked disregard for popular outrage - to actually halve the passenger capacity of a given train in the face of spiralling passenger numbers, but Irish Rail have done just that," he writes.

"Last month a new station on the Maynooth to Dublin line opened near the Phoenix Park, at which time Irish Rail made changes to the timetable. Most rational souls might imagine they put on more or longer trains at peak times - but that is not the Irish Rail way. Instead, they employed the revolutionary tactic of halving the existing peak-time trains going through Tara Street." The result is, he says, "dangerous overcrowding and people left stranded on the platform".

He says that the train which leaves Tara Street shortly after 6pm used to have eight carriages but, for the last week in January, "it was a four-carriage affair. The overcrowding is such that it would shock Dart users," he says. He contacted Irish Rail by e-mail last week without much hope of getting a reply and he wasn't far wrong - apart from an automatic "thank you for your e-mail" response, he has so far heard nothing.

"I have always considered my sympathies on matters of economics and politics to be decidedly left-of-centre, but now find myself pining for an Irish Margaret Thatcher to arrive on the scene, privatise the lot, and put the incompetents responsible on the dole," he concludes. While that might be just a little extreme, we do take his point.

We contacted Irish Rail on his behalf, and spokesman Barry Kenny assured us that the trains departing Tara Street in the evenings had not been shortened as a matter of policy as our reader thinks. Kenny said that, on one day in the week our reader is referring to, "a mechanical issue" had led to the number of carriages being reduced from a normal eight to four.

Since then, he said, there have been six carriages on the service leaving Tara Street shortly after 6pm. This was a "short-term" reduction to allow for maintenance on some carriages. Carriages on the Dublin-Sligo line were being upgraded, and once that process was completed, the older carriages would be commissioned for use on the Dublin to Maynooth commuter line. Kenny said that he expected the service to be back up to its full capacity of eight carriages "by the end of February or the beginning of March".

We asked if commuters could expect to see a similarly short-term reduction in fares to compensate them for the increasingly cramped conditions, but the answer was a fairly emphatic no.

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