Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Something to think about for the future

Posted in Customer service, Infrastructure, Ireland, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 21 January 2011

You may or may not be aware, but I read all the published documents by all the rail operators, all of which are without doubt riveting reading

Nevertheless, I was somewhat drawn to the Translink Annual Report for 2009/10, which is interesting because it lays out the long term plans that Translink has for the railway network in Northern Ireland, beyond the work that is going on at present, primarily focused on the relaying of the Belfast-Derry line and the entry into service of the Class 4000 fleet. These long term plans are intended to expand the network so that it can accomodate the expected rises in passenger numbers over the next decade, something that is constrained by a number of factors:

  • The availability of park & ride facilities
  • The capacity of the train fleet
  • The capacity of the network

In its purchase of the Class 4000 fleet, Translink had an option inserted for the purchase of a further 20 trailer vehicles to enable the trains to be lengthened to 4-cars each that expires in 2018, while it has a number of individual projects down to enable the capacity of the existing network to be enhanced:

A further long term ambition stated categorically is the reopening of the Lisburn-Antrim line that, among other things, would provide an airport rail link to Belfast International Airport. This is in addition to the maintenance and improvement of trackwork and signalling that the network needs to ensure it can maintain existing flows. When compared with the volume of work that is being undertaken in Great Britain, this is fairly small beer. Indeed, this amount of work could probably be accomplished within a single Control Period. But then you consider the budget that NI Railways operates under, which primarily comes from the grant awarded to the Northern Ireland Executive from the British Government, and you see the limits to major capital spending projects that come up. Now of course the United Kingdom now operates under the principles of devolution, with the three “other” constituent countries (i.e. not England) responsible for large elements of their own domestic policy, including transport. But Scotland and Wales still receive funding from the DfT for some major projects (the ones that are funded by Network Rail predominently – if there are others that receive direct funding, please tell me). Traditionally this has not been the case with Northern Ireland but, in this time of financial stringency, might it not be helpful for the continued growth of the railway if, for some projects, trying to obtain DfT funding was considered? Assuming money was available, this could then allow NI Railways to plan this type of work not with a 15 year view (as now) but potentially with just a 5 year view. The 15-20 year view could then be an expansionist one that sees the network restored to areas that it no longer serves.

The first Class 4000 train under construction - would asking the DfT for a financial input enable NI Railways to undertake its hoped for enhancements on a much faster timescale than they are able to do themselves?


One Response

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  1. […] even if it was a loan that the DRD could pay back to the DfT on easy terms? This is something I’ve suggested before. Given that what is good for the economy of Northern Ireland is good for the economy of the United […]

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