Staying on track

DART has seen growth of over 10 per cent in the past year, and an increase in frequency to every 10 minutes is planned.

In the most recent eolas Magazine infrastructure report (March 2017), we outlined the infrastructure investment necessary to cater for the developing needs of our economy, our society and the communities we serve.

However, the strengthening economy today has already delivered strong growth on Iarnród Éireann’s services. How will we address existing and imminent requirements to play the strongest possible role in public transport service delivery?

Iarnród Éireann is focused on achieving three major priorities.

1. Ensuring we are sustainably funded to deliver a safe and quality service.

2. Responding to customer demand by developing existing services.

3. Making our services easier to buy and easier to use by putting customers at the heart of our business.

Sustainable funding

Railways – in Ireland and internationally – have clear consumer, economic and environmental benefits: in urban commuter travel; inter-urban travel between our major towns and cities; and for rail freight where the correct market conditions allow.

To maximise these benefits, Iarnród Éireann must be sustainably funded. Building on the Department of Transport’s analysis for the Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport, the Rail Review – published in late 2016 by the National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann – confirms that Iarnród Éireann is significantly underfunded for the network and services it maintains and operates.

This is a legacy of the funding reductions implemented during the economic crisis, and is despite aggressive cost reduction implemented by Iarnród Éireann which saw our annual cost base reduce by almost €75 million, and our workforce reduce by 25 per cent.

Now, as our economy recovers and demand for rail services grows, Iarnród Éireann wants to play a strong role in meeting the transport needs of the country. However, financially, our balance sheet cannot sustain any further losses, which have accumulated to €160 million over the past eight years.

Most importantly, however, continued underinvestment will ultimately impact on safety and on service quality, when our ambition is to continue to improve both.

The NTA has conducted a public consultation arising from the Rail Review’s findings, and we look forward to working with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and NTA in charting a path to a sustainable future which will ensure a railway fully equipped to meet customer expectations.

Meeting demand

As discussed in the eolas Infrastructure report, ultimately the DART Expansion Programme – including DART Underground – will be the transformative programme to deliver public transport capacity.

However, passenger demand grew by 8 per cent in 2016, with the Greater Dublin Area seeing growth of over 10 per cent in numbers using our services.

We therefore have an immediate challenge in ensuring we can meet this demand. A range of measures are being implemented to address this.

• Last October, following a €13.7 million investment, we opened the Phoenix Park Tunnel for commuter services from the Kildare line to the stations between Connolly and Grand Canal Dock. Initially, services have been provided at peak times, with plans to extend operations to off-peak times and weekends in the near future. Already, over 1,000 commuters travel in each peak window using these new services, bringing more commuters on to public transport.

• Later this year, the expansion of DART services to a 10-minute frequency is planned. This proposed 10-minute DART frequency will grow our daily service capacity by almost 25 per cent, and make the DART on weekdays a ‘turn up and go’ service from first train in the morning til last at night.

• We continue to work on a programme to complete of the resignalling of the existing DART line between Clongriffin and Grand Canal Dock to allow more trains to operate.

• Finally, fleet investment will be critical to meeting demand in the shorter term, and we are working with the NTA to review options, including the restoration to service of a small fleet of railcars withdrawn during the economic downturn.

Continued investment in the network will deliver capacity growth and journey time improvements.

Continued investment in the network will deliver capacity growth and journey time improvements.

Easier to buy and easier to use

In April, Iarnród Éireann launched a new online booking system on its website www.irishrail.ie which will give rail customers more control, choice and flexibility than ever before.

Three highlights of the changes include:

1. Manage my Booking: customers will now be able to manage their own booking online up to 90 minutes before departure on the date of travel or until they print their ticket. Customers will be able to:

• amend their booking, including train time, name and seat selection; and

• cancel a leg of travel or the entire booking.

2. Choose from a new range of ticket types, from Low Fare to Fully Flexible: customers will have a choice of three main ticket types for Intercity journeys.

• Low Fare: the cheapest option, customers will be able to travel on the service booked only to get the best fares. Customers can change name and seat selection online in advance.

• Semi Flexible: customers can switch to the train just before or after their booked service without any charge. In addition, they can change to other services online in advance, or cancel their booking entirely, by paying a 20 per cent fee, a significant reduction from the previous manual system.

• Fully Flexible: customers can make time changes or cancellations online up to 90 minutes before departure for no charge. Customers can also switch to any other train on their route on the day of travel for no charge.

3. New website design and layout: A new cleaner, clearer look for our website at www.irishrail.ie, which displays progress with your booking, and service details like transfer points more clearly for customers.

Further features planned in the coming months include:

• Make larger group bookings online: customers will be able to book groups online of up to 30 people, up from the current maximum of six, with group discounts offered.

• Book catering, station car parking, or other extras online: customers will be able book their catering in advance of travel, book parking or their bicycle space on board, and the system will have the ability for other extra options to be added.

The changes are the first in a series of initiatives as part an investment in customer systems including ticketing, customer service and online systems which will deliver major customer service improvements making rail travel easier to buy and easier to use. The programme is funded by the National Transport Authority.

This will be complemented by more customer service personnel on board our trains, to provide assistance and information to our growing customer base.

Together, these three strands of sustainable funding, developing services to meet demand, and making our services easier for our customers to buy and to use will deliver continuous improvement to those using Iarnród Éireann and support continued growth in the role of the railway in Ireland.

Iarnród Éireann


W: www.irishrail.ie


T: 1850 366 222


Twitter: @irishrail

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