Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

It IS the economy, stupid

Posted in Customer service, Ireland, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 23 March 2010

Never let it be said that I don’t criticise even those that I’ve praised before when it’s deserved. I think I may have mentioned that NI Railways largely operate using an all DMU fleet, which is not surprising given the size of Northern Ireland – DMUs have better acceleration and deceleration over the shorter distances that trains in the province would operate over. That being said, the company owns a single rake of locomotive hauled passenger coaches that it obtained cheap in 2001 from Gatwick Express as an inexpensive means of boosting its (at that point) increasingly outdated fleet. Unfortunately, the Class 111 locomotives were at that time not fitted for push-pull operation, and so in order to operate trains in both directions, the locomotive would have to run around to the other end. However, NI Railways came up with a solution by purchasing a second hand DBSO that was formerly used by Anglia Railways. This vehicle required re-wiring and new bogies to fit the Irish gauge, while the coaches and locomotives needed to be converted for push-pull operation. Nevertheless, this should have been a relatively routine task, and clearly NI Railways saw the worth of it given that they invested a not inconsiderable sum of money in the process. The DBSO was finally delivered in the Summer of 2009, 14 months late and after the passenger rake was withdrawn. Now, NI Railways traditionally used the passenger coaches from autumn to late spring, pulling it in the summer as passenger traffic reduced. But, with the approaching entry into service of the new Class 4000 DMUs, it seems that the passenger rake will not be returned to service at all. So all the drama of the DBSO, the cost of converting it and the locomotives, has seemingly all been wasted.

OK, calm down Chairman Pip. This is where an open-access operator should be allowed to come in. Given the amount of rolling stock (still) available following the final withdrawl of Iarnród Éireann’s Mark 3 fleet, there is no reason that some entrepreneurial operator could not come up with a proposal that would see some of these converted to push-pull operation, with the addition of some of the remaining DBSOs, to start running services that enable more people to use the train. Here’s an example that I came up with – Newry is particularly poorly served by the railway, with most trains terminating further north at Portadown. So how about running additional trains to Newry, and then perhaps across the border to Drogheda, which could then allow commuting from here to Belfast. Using this perfectly acceptable rolling stock, which would be push-pull capable and not require the locomotive to run round, for limited commuter express services to new areas is precisely what open-access is all about.

What a diabolical waste of time and money

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2 Responses

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  1. Claire said, on 25 March 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Is a rake a specific amount?

  2. Chairman Pip said, on 26 March 2010 at 10:04 am

    No – it’s just a formation of passenger coaches


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