Irish Rail: Full Steam Ahead
Thanks to Dick Feam, the CEO of Irish Rail, there’s been what can only be described as a “railway renaissance” on the Emerald Isle. New trains, new routes, modernized signaling and revamped stations are only a sample of the improvements seen on the ground. But like the journey from Dublin to Galway, there have been ups and downs. Like the recent suspension of services on the Rosslare to Waterford route. And with the economy in Ireland and around the world being increasingly dire, there’s a financial reality kicking in. Like, “Who’s going to pay for all of these improvements?”
Feam jumped at the opportunity to be wholly responsible for both the track and the trains, making it easier to deliver benefits to passengers. The government loosened its purse strings making it easier to update the rail network. Under a 10-year transportation program called, “Target 21, which runs through 2015, Irish Rail has a whopping budget of nearly 500 million euros – a year.
The improvements have clearly worked. In fact, between 2004-2007, Irish Rail grew faster in passenger numbers than any other passenger operation in Europe – nearly 16%!
Besides upgrading track and facilities, the wait time between trains has been drastically reduced. Cork, Ireland’s second largest city, had a 2.5 hour gap between trains to Dublin. Now there is one every hour, on the hour, from Heusston Station in the capital.
So far, 183 new Intercity rail cars have been introduced. The stock is made up of 10 sets of six-car trains built by Rotem of Korea. in partnership with Mitsui of Japan and Tokyu Car Construction of Japan which offer first class and catering services, plus another 29 three-car sets. Still to come are 19 three-car sets, which will complete the new fleet. The Intercity trains “feel wider and more spacious”, with seating predominantly arranged as four table seats aligned to windows.
Meanwhile, the DART – the only electrified railway in Ireland – which serves Dublin and its surrounding suburbs, has also seen a record expansion of the train fleet with old trains completely refurbished by Siemens. The proposed DART Underground, will link the two separate over ground lines and interchange with many other transport services.
Other new lines that have opened is the link between Limerick and Galway – 34 years after the last passenger train ran. And the Western Rail Corridor has been completely renewed between Ennis and Athenry. New stations have been built at Six Mile Bridge, Gort, Ardrahan and Craughwell.
Faster trains make for better punctuality. Some routes are hitting mid-90% on-time rates. So you’ll get to your destination quicker, Irish eyes smiling the whole way thanks to an improved rail system designed with you, the traveler, in mind.