Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Less a bullet really than a spitball

Posted in Customer service, Infrastructure, Ireland by Chairman Pip on 12 November 2010

There is a story in the Galway Advertiser today regarding the new timetable for services to and from Galway, which includes a morning service to Dublin that arrives before 9.00am. There are some things about this that caught my eye. The first is that, even though the train leaves Galway Ceannt at 06.35 and arrives at Dublin Heuston at 08.50, it is described as getting travellers from city to city in “under two hours”. I don’t know about you, but last time I checked the amount of time between 06.35 and 08.50 was 2hrs 15min. Anyway, the second thing was the opening line of the piece:

The new morning bullet train service from Galway to Dublin is a major step towards people being able to travel from one city to the other in under two hours.

Now  I’ve never even cosidered using the well-worn phrase “bullet train” to describe Ireland’s railways. That is something that has never in my wildest dreams occured to me. In fact, and I have no wish to sound nasty here, but when it comes to speed even “spitball” might be too complementary. Perhaps “spudgun” is closer to the mark.

In any case, the point of the piece was to illustrate how this new early morning service has gone down. Niall Ó Brolcháin, a Green Party senator, has praised the morning service allowing people from Galway to get to the capital before 9.00am. Admittedly ten minutes before 9.00am, but still. However, Patrick Creed, a Green Party activist from Athenry has criticised the new timetable for having two trains within five minutes of each other from Athenry to Galway Ceannt (08.09 and 08.13), then no more for over an hour and a half:

One is at 8.09am and another four minutes later at 8.13am with the next service due more than an hour later. Anyone needing to get to the city to make bus connections to Salthill or the Industrial estates simply can’t take the train if they start work at 9am. What is the point in having two trains serving Athenry five minutes apart during rush hour, neither of which gets commuters to the city in time to make onward connections?

This is fair comment and, as so often seems to be the case, Iarnród Éireann don’t seem to have given this the level of thought that they should have. But, it must be remembered that the railway line to Galway is single track after Portarlington, so the accomodation of trains on the route is difficult. In addition, two routes now serve Athenry and Galway, with both the main line to Dublin and the line to Limerick to take account of. It is here that a level of investment could pay dividends – double tracking between Athenry and Galway, a distance of less than 20 miles, would massively increase the capacity of the route, while the installation of a bay platform would allow dedicated commuter services in rush hour to terminate at Athenry without disrupting the main line. At the same time, a programme of passing loop installation could take place, increasing the number of loops on the main lines, so that there are more places for trains to pass, again increasing the capacity of the route, so that trains could be scheduled to get to Dublin even more than 10 minutes before 9.00am. Hell, let’s go the whole hog and restore the connecting line through Moate, allowing trains from Galway to connect with trains into Dublin Connolly. But then all of that is a pipe dream for most people, given the Dublin-centric view that Iarnród Éireann seems to take when it comes to investment.

“Greens give mixed welcome to new train timetable”

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