Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Back to Ireland

Posted in Infrastructure, Ireland, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 15 December 2009

I’m going back to Ireland, because there are some more things that I want to say. First of all, we all know that from the 1st January 2010, the EU will be liberalising the railway network of Europe to allow for greater competition. Of course, the focus of this will be the high speed network, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the railways should be overlooked. And this will be the case throughout the EU. Including Ireland. But, as we also know, Ireland’s network is physically seperate, because Ireland is an island after all. And, Ireland operates trains using a different gauge (5’3″ as opposed to 4’8½”). As a consequence, any potential new operator in Ireland would have to source special rolling stock, unlike elsewhere where, provided it conformed to the loading gauge it would be fine. Iarnród Éireann has been undergoing a major programme to replace its intercity rolling stock over the last three or four years, with 8 rakes of new express coaches for its flagship Dublin to Cork service, and the introduction of 63 new 3-and 6-car DMUs for all of its other services. This has left a significant amount of coaching stock available. In addition, because it is almost entirely phasing out locomotive hauled passenger trains, it has need for fewer locomotives. With some investment, a number of the locomotives could be refurbished and, inconjunction with some of the withdrawn coaching stock, provide a start up fleet for a new operator that would provide competition to Iarnród Éireann, which would (hopefully) cause it to improve its level of service. But, Iarnród Éireann is in the process of scrapping most of its older locomotives, and has offered its withdrawn coaching stock for sale. Because the coaches would need to be re-gauged for use in Great Britain, no private operator is willing to spend the money to transport them and replace the bogies, so the likelihood is that the majority of these will be scrapped too. And because no start-up operator will be willing to pay out for brand new rolling stock, no one will be interested in running competitor services in Ireland.

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