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Article: Expert says Ireland must invest more in high[er]-speed rail

  • 24-01-2011 1:32am
    #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 6,093 ✭✭✭ Amtmann


    FRANK McDONALD Environment Editor

    UNLESS IRELAND invests in higher-speed rail to compete with faster journey times on new motorways, it will face a “progressive closing of the [railway] network” in the near future, according to a leading transport expert.

    Prof Austin Smyth, lead author of a mid-term review of Transport 21 for the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, said the Belfast-Dublin line was “almost a basket case now” due to competition from the M1 motorway and “the same will happen elsewhere”.

    The next government would have to decide between three options for the future of the railways – to invest more with the aim of making journey times more competitive, to continue subsidising loss-making services in decline, or to close key routes.

    At an institute symposium on the review, Prof Smyth noted that 75 per cent of the money invested under the Transport 21 programme since it was launched in 2005 had gone on roads, with the inter-urban motorways accounting for 89 per cent of this expenditure.

    He said it was “not unreasonable to attribute part of the growth in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions to the improvements in inter-urban roads, which also had negative consequences for spatial development – in particular, by facilitating suburban sprawl”.

    Referring to rising oil prices, he warned: “You ain’t seen nothing yet. In 10 years time, today’s prices will seem very cheap.

    “Petrol prices of €4, €5 or €6 per litre are not inconceivable in the near future, and transport investment needs to be considered in that context.”

    Dick Fearn, chief executive of Iarnród Éireann, said it was “committed to making journey time improvements” on the railways with “relatively modest incremental expenditure to eliminate speed restrictions”, and he believed that such a programme could be funded.

    “Ten years ago, we didn’t have a rail infrastructure that was sustainable,” he added.

    “We have come a long way and now have a very modern intercity fleet. It’s not yet sufficient. We are now uncompetitive on some intercity routes and need to spend some more money.”

    Pat Mangan, who recently retired as assistant secretary at the Department of Transport, said an average of €100 million a year had been invested in the railways. “That needs to continue if we are to not face further restrictions in speed and level of service.”

    However there was now “a lot less money for transport than before”, with a “sharp decline” in the annual capital allocation from €3 billion last year to just €1 billion in 2014. This “new reality” might mean imposing more road tolls to raise money for transport investment.

    “The first priority is to protect what we have already got,” Mr Mangan told the symposium. Money would have to be spent on the maintenance of new roads, including local and regional roads, as well as ensuring that improved rail services did not deteriorate.

    He said the next government needs to make early decisions on major transport investment projects such as Dart underground and Metro North and “stick with them”. Instead of having Ministers “navel gaze”, they should “get on with it” by delivering key projects.
    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2011/0124/1224288165032.html


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,091 ✭✭✭ marmurr1916


    This is an issue that's been discussed on the Roads forum several times.

    If the major railway routes in Ireland aren't upgraded to allow for minimum average speeds of 140km/h from terminus to terminus, they face a very uncertain future.

    The most important lines, Dublin - Belfast, Dublin - Cork/Limerick, Dublin - Galway, Dublin - Waterford, need to upgraded as a matter of priority.

    The line between Limerick and Galway risks becoming a white elephant once the M18 is completed, unless it gets a major upgrade which allows for 140km/h.

    The other regional and intercity lines (Dublin - Sligo, Tralee - Mallow, Dublin - Wexford, Dublin - Westport) should be upgraded to allow for minimum average speeds of 120km/h.

    Capacity close to large urban centres, especially Dublin, should also be increased, along with a range of measures to encourage more commuters to use trains.

    If these measures aren't taken, the future of Irish railways is bleak.


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 25,234 ✭✭✭✭ Sponge Bob


    The genius Frank McDonald puts 2 and 2 together. It was all done here many years ago. What the Motorways do is make buses viable, particularly express buses on intercity corridors . Up to recently bus travel was a rather ardous event, that is no longer the case.

    The matter was also discussed in Commuting and Transport, perhaps in there first and then here, anyone remember this thread from 2008 ????

    and This Post
    The move will more likely be to EXPRESS buses at the expense of rail post 2010 .

    The Motorways will simply murder Iarnród Éireann I fear . A fully functioning interconnector is at least 10 years away seeing as Iarnród Éireann only propose to build part of it ( the underground bit in Dublin ) for starters .

    The stretch of line between Ballyfermot and Inchicore will be a severely bottlenecked twin track with grossly insufficient capacity for peak commuter and intercity rail for a long time to come .

    Only when the 3 mile section from Heuston to Cherry Orchard is widened to a full 4 Track and with full separation between Dart and Intercity can we hope to see an expeditious Intercity Rail Service .

    That has not even been designed properly and that's why its about 10 years away .


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,010 Tech3


    The line between Limerick and Galway risks becoming a white elephant once the M18 is completed, unless it gets a major upgrade which allows for 140km/h.

    The Limerick-Galway line is already a white elephant even with some of the M18 yet to be completed. It takes close to 2hrs journey by rail but only 80mins on the new express service X51 by Bus Eireann.

    Also a new rail line is needed for anything capable to the speeds of 140km/hr. The current refurbished goat track limits to an average speed of 80km/hr.

    The spending ratio of roads to public transport will be brought in line now as the major inter-urban network(road) has been completed.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,549 ✭✭✭✭ Judgement Day


    Expert says Irish railways need more investment .....yawn, yawn! I've been banging on about this since 1978 but back then the railways still had some worthwhile function and were relevant to a great many people. Since then traffic has been lost left right and centre and the whole set-up is an irrelevance to most people. Like Todd Andrews said ' a few Greyhound buses could carry the passengers' and there's virtually no freight left. Of course our railways have a vital strategic future but just like Carlsberg, Ireland doesn't do strategic planning and instead likes to splurge what little money is left on further vanity road building projects such as the proposed A5 Dual Carriageway to Derry/L'derry. :rolleyes:


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 9,376 ✭✭✭ ei.sdraob


    If the major railway routes in Ireland aren't upgraded to allow for minimum average speeds of 140km/h from terminus to terminus, they face a very uncertain future..

    True, i know someone who (quite obviously) went above motorway speed limits and went Dublin airport to galway city in 1hr 20 :eek:


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,133 Stonewolf


    Nevermind high speed rail.

    IR should concentrate on bring all its lines up to a 160km/hr running standard (and I mean properly, not "a mile or two in the middle") across the board and then scheduling services to operate at best speed. They should also be future proofing by looking at a slow roll out of catenery to more and more of the network so that future train purchases can have electric as an option.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 560 Jehuty42


    What would be involved in retooling the lines for 140 km/h operation? Just track renewal and improvement, or would re-alignment be needed?


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators Posts: 13,991 Mod ✭✭✭✭ monument


    The article and the report mentions higher-speed rail, not high-speed rail as the title of this thread mentions.

    The report (PDF) says:


    Intercity Rail Passenger
    6.3.5 Re-visioning of the role of the intercity railway, allied to introduction of a mechanism to reflect the true environmental and economic costs of private vehicle use, could bring about a significant improvement in performance. The goal would be to ensure that rail would be competitive in journey time to the car. This would require a fundamental step change in speeds with for instance, journey time targets in the longer term of around 1hr 45 mins between Dublin and Cork and 1hr 15 mins between Dublin and Belfast. The timescale for realising such improvements would be beyond T21.

    6.3.6 It is appreciated that this requires substantial capital funds for rail to provide for track upgrading, realignments of sections of route and increasing track capacity on suburban sections to achieve overall speed improvements. The Kildare four tracking scheme on the Dublin - Cork line is partly complete. Additional works could cost up to €0.5 billion. To achieve such journey times on the Dublin – Belfast line would require substantial new sections of route most of it in the North. The cost of infrastructure works on that route could
    reach €0.5 billion over and above investment in additional track capacity in
    North Dublin (see below). Most of the expenditure outside the GDA would be
    incurred in Northern Ireland.

    6.3.7 Motive power will also need to be reassessed for higher speeds and the
    costs would be in addition to the infrastructure works. However, the introduction of new trains would be timed to reflect life expectancy of existing trains.

    6.3.8 The Dublin – Dundalk- Belfast line has experienced a significant extension in journey times due to the conflict between suburban and long distance trains, mostly on the Connolly-Malahide section as well as track condition, notably north of the border. This has negated much of the
    claimed benefits of investment put in place during the 1990s. Indeed, the cross border service has lost market share and has produced a significant decline in absolute volumes as recent road improvements reduce travel times by more than half an hour. and intensified coach competition also reduces fares. This and other intercity rail services will need increasing subsidy
    and will become harder to sustain.

    6.3.9 The effectiveness of any transport measures will depend to a large extent on supporting regional development and planning policies. Enhanced
    competitiveness of the intercity rail system will also reinforce the competitiveness of city centre locations with attendant benefits of social cohesion and reduced tendency to urban sprawl. In addition, it will promote
    regional balance and a more ordered settlement pattern as development is
    encouraged to locate adjacent to stations

    6.3.10 Such a step change in rail service, while offering a real competitor to the car served by a vastly improving and improved road system, could also offer a further environmental and fiscal benefit to the state by affording an alternative to internal air services. Many of the latter are supported
    by very large per capita subsidies. It is recognised that these subsidies have their origins at a time when the state’s transport infrastructure was very much poorer than today. The case for reviewing the efficacyof such expenditure is evident on a route-by-route basis. It is recognised that for
    some destinations in the Northwest or Southwest the case for route subsidy
    retention may remain. The claim for other routes appears much less robust.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,110 KevR


    He said it was “not unreasonable to attribute part of the growth in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions to the improvements in inter-urban roads

    What are people's opinions on this?

    I would have thought that the removal of notorious bottlenecks like Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Gort, Oranmore would have reduced emissions. Driving at a steady pace of 120kmh past these towns instead of driving through them (constant stopping and starting, low average speed). For example, it used to take 10-15 mins to get through Ballinasloe, it now takes 3 mins to drive past it (3 mins of emissions at a steady pace-vs-15 mins of emissions stop/start); multiply this by thousands of vehicles per day, millions per year in one town alone...

    There was even a lot of slowing down and speeding up on sections old N roads outside of any towns..

    And what about the likes of the M50?? It was a huge car park at peak times (cars spewing out emissions while not even moving); it is flows relatively freely.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,984 ✭✭✭ Chris_5339762


    Ireland isnt big enough for High Speed Rail.

    Simply put, I can do 3hrs DOOR TO DOOR (guaranteed, almost) on the M8 from Cork to Dublin. The train from STATION TO STATION is 2h50m and that far from guaranteed.

    The train door-to-door time would have to be about 2hrs or less for me to even consider switching from the car. I dont think thats likely without an investment that is utterly over the top cost-wise.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,295 ✭✭✭ Pete_Cavan


    The cost of upgrading the intercity lines such that they can compete with travel times on the motorways would be enormous and unjustifiable. I would prefer to see them build MN and DU and focus on developing public transport in the cities (Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford) rather than developing it between the cities. Allow buses to provide the intercity transport, we have already spent the money to improve their journey times and they can be operated by private companies which saves the taxpayer further money.

    We should first develop BRT systems in, and park and ride into, the regional cities which would help to alleviate traffic problems and lead to more sustainable growth in the cities. Also, by making it easier to travel around the city without a car, it will attract more users to the existing rail network. For example, Im sure some people are put off getting the train into the city because they get left at the station and then have very little options to further their journey so they take the car which gives them the freedom to travel around the city. At least with other transport options within the city, people will be more inclinde to use public transport to get into the city.

    Galway is the second regional city (after Cork) to have a public transport feasibility study conducted, by the same consultancy firm, who again recommended a BRT system (as well as a reconfigured bus network) over LRT (which is what groups like GLUAS want). The study can be found here. A map of the proposed route can be found on the PDF page 67. Obviously a CBA would have to be done to prove this, but I would have thought money spent on this BRT would see a better return than spending it on the Dublin - Galway line which would not do a huge amount for journey times and probably nothing to attract customers.


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators Posts: 13,991 Mod ✭✭✭✭ monument


    Ireland isnt big enough for High Speed Rail.

    Simply put, I can do 3hrs DOOR TO DOOR (guaranteed, almost) on the M8 from Cork to Dublin. The train from STATION TO STATION is 2h50m and that far from guaranteed.

    The train door-to-door time would have to be about 2hrs or less for me to even consider switching from the car. I dont think thats likely without an investment that is utterly over the top cost-wise.

    As I said:
    The article and the report mentions higher-speed rail, not high-speed rail as the title of this thread mentions.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,419 ✭✭✭ Cool Mo D


    Pete_Cavan wrote: »
    The cost of upgrading the intercity lines such that they can compete with travel times on the motorways would be enormous and unjustifiable.

    Hava you any actual evidence for this? I would say that speed increases on existing lines, to say 125 mph standard on Cork, Belfast and Galway lines would require significant investment, but more like hundreds of millions than billions.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,984 ✭✭✭ Chris_5339762


    CIE wont give a sensible quote though. They claimed it would cost €180 million to dual-track Galway - Athenry, a figure so stupidly overestimated as to be laughable.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,295 ✭✭✭ Pete_Cavan


    Cool Mo D wrote: »
    Hava you any actual evidence for this? I would say that speed increases on existing lines, to say 125 mph standard on Cork, Belfast and Galway lines would require significant investment, but more like hundreds of millions than billions.

    According to T21 Midterm Review, additional works on the Dublin - Cork line "could cost up to €0.5 billion" and on the Dublin - Belfast line "the cost of infrastructure works on that route could reach €0.5 billion over and above investment in additional track capacity in North Dublin". So you are talking over a billion to do those two lines. I would also question the value of spending this amount of money when we already have over one billion euro worth of motorway connecting these cities which offer faster travel times and more flexible journeys.

    According to Galway Public Transport Feasibility Study reconfiguration of bus network and expansion of the bus fleet "together with the capital costs associated with the implantation of the central Bus Rapid Transit system is estimated at €204 million". According to Cork Area Transit System Study the cost of BRT is Cork would be €306million. Basically you could do BRT in Galway and Cork for the same cost as upgrading the Dublin - Cork rail line.

    There is no study comparing the benefits of each relative to the costs but I would imagine BRT in the cities would be better value. It would take extremely fast journeys to get people to abandon their cars for intercity travel and there is also the issue of how to get round the city once you get off the train. Who would get a train to Galway when their only method of transport for getting around the city is to take a taxi through gridlocked streets.

    I also think the country would be better served by investing in the regional cities themselves, instead of investing in what links them to Dublin. BRT together with proper planning would allow the cities to become more self-sustainable. We need more large economic centres in this country. IMO we should use the existing infrastructure (motorways) for intercity travel and spend our money on infrastructure that will develop and grow the cities.


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 25,234 ✭✭✭✭ Sponge Bob


    Pete_Cavan wrote: »
    According to T21 Midterm Review, additional works on the Dublin - Cork line "could cost up to €0.5 billion" and on the Dublin - Belfast line "the cost of infrastructure works on that route could reach €0.5 billion over and above investment in additional track capacity in North Dublin". So you are talking over a billion to do those two lines.

    A Billion to do Hazelhatch - Cork and Drogheda - Newry to be precise :)

    Portarlington - Galway = New line :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 279 ✭✭ coolperson05


    What IE are doing at the moment is very similar to what happened with roads in the 1980's/early 90's.

    They added dual carriageways leading into dublin. Then these were extended to surrounding counties. It wasn't until 2010 that they had to start at the beginning and fill in the motorways from their destinations to Dublin. No point having a lovely smooth road 2 miles outside Dublin when there was a horse track for the 100 odd miles before it!

    Same with trains. There's lovely 2/3 and even 4 tracking leading into Dublin. And all these interconnectors will speed up trains getting into Dublin. No point when they waited 10mins at each station on the way for the other train to pass them! Or slowed down as they passed each cattle gate. They would need to start rail at the start again! In a dream world they shud have built new rail lines double tracked beside all the new motorways! Super fast an uncongested! Just dipping in and out of towns for the stations.

    One can dream! :rolleyes:


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,278 ✭✭✭ dowlingm


    The problem with Dublin-Belfast:
    1. The feckers along the line in NI who keep messing with it.
    2. Any improvement is dependent on both NIR and IE having the money for it - there's enough sclerosis on their own timetables without them both having to agree with each other.

    In any case NIR capital priority is likely to be Belfast-Derry in the near term.

    It's a pity that when there was a mad rush to do crossborder infrastructure spend that instead of giving PSO money to Derry and money to canals and so on that the UK and Irish governments didn't cooperate on an whole-island signalling refit to a common (ERTMS) standard so that when an Enterprise broke a proper intercity train could be sent to replace it, not just a 29000 commuter train.


  • Registered Users Posts: 600 ✭✭✭ Neworder79


    I know spending to date has been focused on improving rail infrastructure and safety up to modern standard signaling and CWR. There have been improvements in timetables and railcars, but from the publics perception not the radical step change we might have expected from the billions invested.

    Now that most of the network upgrade program is complete shouldn't it be possible to achieve some level of speed improvement? With competition from motorways and the end of PSO air routes shouldn't travel times be the next priority for IR?

    Westport line is the one I've used most recently and it still feels extremely slow in parts trundling along like it always has for almost 4 hours.

    What are the remaining bottlenecks?


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,841 ✭✭✭ Bottle_of_Smoke


    Has to be right. Since the Newry bypass the bus to belfast is often quicker than the train(and about 1/3 of the price) Haven't gotten the train in years and I go dublin to belfast probably a dozen times a year


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,032 DWCommuter


    I am of the opinion that IE took their eye off the ball when it came to the On Track 2000 programme. From all the research I have done I am absolutely convinced that no case was made by IE to Government for an investment programme that would also increase rail speeds to compete with a motorway network. The time to make these changes and deliver higher speeds was when the Government and the EU were firing money at IE. (1999 - 2006)

    In saying this though, the National Development plan 2000 - 2006 that consulted with IE, provided investment to permit speeds of 100mph on the Cork and Belfast lines and 70 to 90mph on all other routes.. We didn't actually get that did we? I believe those speeds if applied to the majority of any particular route would compete favourably with motorways. The relaying that was undertaken in the last 12 years was a missed opportunity. It is utterly inconceivable that a country can invest heavily in both road and rail and then fail to deliver an inter city rail network that falls way short of being a genuine alternative to driving.

    With many inter city rail journies now at slower speeds that pre investment times questions have to be asked. However when questions are asked IE will simply offer comparisons to 1999 when journey times were increased due to ,massive safety concerns post Knockgroghery. The reality is different. A lot of inter city routes were actually quicker in 1974!!


  • Registered Users Posts: 721 mk6705


    The Dublin to Cork line should be the first priority. Every intercity route with the exception of Sligo and Belfast depend on it. If it were upgraded trains to/from Waterford, Galway, Westport and to a greater extent Limerick and Tralee and of course Cork. The backbone needs to upgraded first. We have railcars capable of 100 mph but they never reach it. Until that line is upgraded, the branches will have to wait. An average speed of 90 mph would do alot, if stops were kept to a minimum. I'm not sure how to calculate it really. On Cork to Dublin journeys Mallow and Limerick junction will nearly always be stops. Thurles is often necessary too. How much would this slow things down? Would an average speed of 80 mph be possible even? Though surely right now that's not too far off is it? Wouldn't be surprised if it's happening now. But it's certainly too slow for modern times. Rail should be the fastest way to get from station to station at least, but at the moment you'd probably be faster driving from Kent station to Heuston!


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,984 ✭✭✭ Chris_5339762


    ...and in the case of Galway - Dublin, the car is fastest, the bus is about 15 minutes behind, with the train about 20 minutes slower again.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,549 ✭✭✭✭ Judgement Day


    Cutting out stops as been a CIE fetish for years but what is the point? If you cut out stops you cut off traffic and if you're going to do that you might as well fly people from Dublin to Cork and let the rest of the towns along the way fend for themselves. :rolleyes:


  • Registered Users Posts: 721 mk6705


    Cutting out stops as been a CIE fetish for years but what is the point? If you cut out stops you cut off traffic and if you're going to do that you might as well fly people from Dublin to Cork and let the rest of the towns along the way fend for themselves. :rolleyes:

    Running trains from Thurles generally sorts this out though.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,278 ✭✭✭ dowlingm


    How many delays would be dealt with if we made the network cow-proof? I see there was a disruption near Limerick Junction the other day.

    Here's what I'd do: 201s and DDs to Heuston, with 6 car 22Ks going the other way. The KRP favours locos but the Enterprise has to cope with DART as well as the poor track in the north. Connolly would then have a large base of 22K drivers and vehicles with both Sligo, Rosslare and Belfast (although the vehicles would be limited by TPWS fit)

    [and yes - I know NIR owns 50pc of the DDs and "their" 201s]


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 878 rainbowdash


    They could start by modernising the website. I doubt its changed in years.

    How about print your own tickets ala Ryanair.

    Then the staff probably need to be sorted. Maybe I am incorrect but I imagine the place is riddled by high paid staff and ridiculous work practices.

    These steps alone would lead to lower fares and higher passenger numbers.

    If there was an All out strike in Irish rail in the current climate I doubt many would be too put out. The northern line was closed long enough and people got over it, in fact they got on buses and stayed there.


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