Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

You’ve got it, so use it!

Posted in Customer service, Ireland, Politics by Chairman Pip on 11 July 2011

Now I’m not one to criticise…actually, that’s not strictly true – I am one to criticise, often. Still, I read today that Translink will be closing the main line between Lisburn and Belfast over three weekends in July for engineering work concerning the introduction of the new Class 4000 trains, as well as work on the new maintenance depot at Adelaide. As a consequence, trains will be replaced by buses – NI Railways passengers will be forced onto buses, as all stations between Lisburn and Belfast Great Victoria Street will be closed, while Enterprise services will terminate at Lisburn, stopping only at Lurgan and Portadown, with buses taking passengers from Newry to Belfast Central. While i can understand that the network in Northern Ireland is not big, so there is less opportunity for NI Railways to undertake a promise similar to that of Network Rail (who have said that, to avoid disruption to passengers’ journeys, wherever possible they will try and have a diversionary route available for trains during engineering possessions rather than the TOC having to put on rail replacement buses), in this instance there is a diversionary route that could be used; the Lisburn-Antrim line, which is maintained for such a purpose. Would it not have been possible to design a timetable that would have allowed some services (the Enterprise ones at least) to have taken this route into Belfast instead of them stopping short? You wonder what ideas there are at the top of Translink that they could not even think of this.

“Maintenance work to close Lisburn rail line”

Another Northern Ireland based story that I noticed concerned the proposal to reduce the level of service between Belfast and Derry from nine per day to five, in spite of the plan to invest a significant amount in relaying the track to improve line speeds (and thus journey times), as well as installing a new passing point. It has been suggested that the reasoning behind this is a political one – the previous Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, is a member of Sinn Féin, while the current minister, Danny Kennedy, is an Ulster Unionist. Derry is a broadly nationalist city, and is therefore being “punished” by the new unionist incumbant:

I had assumed that with Conor Murphy being minister that it would be redressed, given the fact that he is a nationalist, to undo the harm that has been done to Derry as a nationalist city. That’s how people see it and it’s getting harder and harder to convince people that there is anything other than an anti-Derry agenda. We’re now being perceived as whingers but it’s absolutely ridiculous what is happening, especially with tourism being so important to Derry.
Mark Durkan, MP for Foyle

It is difficult to understand, given the green agenda, how this can be justified – yes, NI Railways needs to keep costs down, but it also needs to be seen as a business, and therefore to try and maximise what it does. Derry and the north-west are seen as major tourist areas, especially with the city being the first UK City of Culture in 2013; furthermore, Derry is Northern Ireland’s second city, and the fourth largest on the island of Ireland, and would likely be the focal point for the economic development in the north-west (taking the economy of the whole island into account), and so needs as frequent and fast a rail service as possible. This is again where open access could be the suggestion. Given that the main line is entirely within the United Kingdom, then there’s no reason that an open-access operator couldn’t apply to run the other four services per day, which (as I’ve often said) would provide competition that could end up improving the service as a whole.

“Is it the end of line for Derry trains?” 
“Train cuts ‘slap in face’ for North West”
“New rail plans a ‘slap in the face’”


One Response

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  1. Colin McLeod said, on 17 July 2011 at 8:46 pm

    I would prefer an eight mile bus substitution to a 40 mile rail detour via Antrim. Antrim branch has not been maintained for years so severe speed restrictions would apply. Not to mention all the branches that would hit the train without expensive clearance operations.

    I’m sure even if “the top of Translink” did think of this they would have instantly dismissed hte idea as ludicrous.

    Colin McLeod

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