All-Island Rail Review (Ireland)

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Steddenm

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RTÉ News have published the following...

A cross border review of Ireland's rail network has been launched.

The Strategic Rail Review will consider how the rail network on the island can improve sustainable connectivity between major cities, enhance regional accessibility including to the North West and support balanced regional development.

It will also consider the feasibility of higher speeds on the network and whether there is a potential to increase use of the network for freight.

Stormont Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan announced the review.

Ms Mallon said she is passionate about rail travel.

"I believe it has massive untapped potential to deliver multiple benefits across our island," she said.

"Since coming into office, I have been clear that it is my priority to address regional imbalance, tackle the climate crisis and better connect communities across Ireland.

"This is an ambitious piece of work that will help inform our decision making and investment in our rail network for years to come.
"It's an exciting start of a journey, many have been waiting for."


Minister Ryan described himself as a "firm believer in the potential of rail".

He said: "This year is designated as the European Year of Rail and I'm delighted to launch this strategic review of rail here in Ireland. I'm particularly pleased that we'll undertake this review on an all-island basis, working with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive. The review will look at how rail can help better connect cities and regions across the island and will complement the investment we already plan in our commuter rail networks."



The Strategic Rail Review will be delivered by external consultants and overseen by the Department of Transport in co-operation with the Department for Infrastructure, supported by key stakeholders including the Commission for Rail Regulation, the National Transport Authority, Iarnród Éireann and Translink.

Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson welcomed the move.

She called for a feasibility study on extending the Derry line into Letterkenny and beyond.

"It's vital that on the back of this review, we see real delivery on improving our rail line and connecting our island through our trains."
Full story at https://www.rte.ie/news/regional/2021/0407/1208479-cross-border-rail-review/

I think this is brilliant for Ireland. Some of the towns and cities are really underserved by the rail network. Opening old lines is also a good thing.
 
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berneyarms

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It all seems very washy.
I think Ireland will be lucky to retain current services post covid.
I think that you could not be further from reality if you tried with that statement.

Rail services are likely to increase, not decrease, particularly with the Green Party in government here.
 

Elwyn

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Pre-Covid, passengers numbers for trains in Ireland were at very high levels. Here in the north they were the highest ever recorded. People are really getting tuned to the convenience and environmental benefits. (Previously the cultural view was often that only poor people sued public transport and we have been far to car focused. That’s changed dramatically in the past 5 years. ).

Translink trains were standing room only a lot of the time, and consequently they ordered a load of extra carriages, which are just starting to arrive from Spain. I think they’ll be needed OK.

Just a couple of weeks ago I saw a presentation on re-opening the line from Portadown to Armagh. It seems to meet Altnabreac’s tests in terms of population (Armagh is a city), distance etc, likely passenger numbers, plus most of the trackbed of the 8 or 9 mile branch is intact. Just one property built on it. I suspect it might well happen.
 

Brooke

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This seems like a great development, especially if it leads to some further prioritised candidates for potential redevelopment / reopening / service expansion.

Of the two views above, I’m more “glass half full”.

Clearly Covid has decimated rail travel in the short term. But while many stations and some routes were economically unviable before (and certainly will be now) the overall network picture immediately before was pretty healthy both north and south.

I can’t see how the rural and intercity lines can ever have much of a business case for investment - but for sure the urban and commuter parts should have a very strong economic and environmental case for more developments on both sides of the border.

There are plenty of schemes already at various stages of planning and, with a bit more government attention & willpower, I can imagine a few others getting added.
 

Elwyn

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Does city status really make a difference? It is still a small town even by (Northern) Irish standards. Armagh is not much bigger than Cranleigh, which boasts about being a large village.
Being a city doesn’t make any formal difference. I accept that. The population of the city itself is only 15,000 but there’s a huge catchment area around it where people live and commute to Belfast (mostly by car). It’s also got quite a few tourist attractions (two cathedral, Navan fort, planetarium and so on, and there is some evidence that tourists are using cars to come, because there is no train. (There is a bus service but it doesn’t get the tourists).

The reopening plan involves running the line back to the original railway station in the city centre (now a bus station so still in Government ownership), plus a park and ride on the outskirts to pick up the rural commuters. (There are few planning restrictions in NI and every field now has a bungalow in it, so you have a proportionately much bigger rural community than in GB).
 

deltic

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The terms of reference are


1) What is the role of rail (including the potential for higher- / high-speed) in delivering all-island intercity connectivity?;

2) What is the role of rail in supporting balanced regional development, including accessibility to the North-West?;

3) What future opportunities exist for the railway, including in the area of freight and supporting new industrial opportunities?;

4) How to strengthen and maintain strategic connectivity to international gateways (air- and seaports)?;

5) How to manage intercity, commuter and freight activity through the urban rail nodes?;

6) What is the potential for the railway to contribute to the target CO2 reductions outlined in Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Plan and its Climate Action Plan and the UK Government’s Decarbonising Transport – Setting the Challenge document?;

7) How to facilitate future energy supply for the railway sector; and

8) How to develop and enhance the intermodal interfaces for passengers and freight, as well as aspects of competition and complementarity;

The answers to which are probably

1) limited to the Belfast to Dublin to Cork/Limerick core corridor
2) not sure how you can get to the North-west but implementing the previous Atlantic corridor proposal of improving services on the Waterford/Limerick/Galway/Sligo corridor would be a start
3) difficult to see any role for freight given the short distances on the island and the lack of bulk movements
4) if Dublin metro gets built to serve the airport then that would be good and improving the link between Sydenham station and George Best airport could be an easy win. While a number of airports have nearby lines or stations eg Farranfore near Kerry, former Eglington near Derry airport, the number of airport passengers/low frequency of train services limit the case for intervention
5) there is a need for four tracking to increase capacity on lines into Dublin and to increase capacity into Belfast if any re-openings are to be considered. Not sure how modern the signalling system is and whether you can increase capacity that way
6 & 7) certainly demands to electrify lines but given the low usage of many routes not sure there is much case for doing much - big offshore Atlantic wind farms are being proposed which will provide clean electricity.
8) Multi-modal ticketing is already available, probably potential for improving timetable integration - not clear what you can do on freight
 
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craigybagel

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It all seems very washy.
I think Ireland will be lucky to retain current services post covid.

I think that you could not be further from reality if you tried with that statement.

Rail services are likely to increase, not decrease, particularly with the Green Party in government here.
Indeed. If the Limerick to Ballybrophy branch has survived this long (and you'd expect that to be the most obvious candidate for closure) it's hard to see the current government finally being the ones to end it.

That said, I'm not entirely sure this review is likely to achieve all that much. As far as the cross border aspect goes, there's not much more that can be done without massive investment. Sure, you could upgrade the current 90mph limit in a few places, and the arrival of new stock could see the service upgraded to hourly, but it's biggest issues see always going to capacity at each end - trying to fit around an intensive suburban service into Belfast and especially into Dublin. Without fixing that you'll struggle to compete with the M1/A1 - but to fix it would cost a fortune.

Presumably since there's an emphasis is on cross border services and a specific mention of the northwest, they're going to look at Derry - Letterkenny, or something along those lines. Again though, that isn't going to come cheap, and it's hard to see a survey coming out in favour.
 

berneyarms

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I think to be honest, the notion of new high speed lines in Ireland is fanciful to say the least. But some real improvements can be delivered on the existing lines, dealing with the capacity constraints with additional tracks and eliminating as many of the lingering PSRs as possible.

For example there will have to finally be recognition of the need to four track from north of Clontarf Road to Raheny to allow Belfast and Outer Suburban trains overtake inner DART services. Other capacity measures would perhaps include reconfiguring Dún Laoghaire to allow a centre turnback and for Rosslare services overtake DART trains there.

The real problem area is the Portadown to Belfast railway which just has never delivered the speeds that were promised for the Enterprise.

Others may be interested in the Iarnród Éireann strategy document which has been updated here:

It deals with the detailed plans up to 2027 and the outline strategy to 2040.

Obviously the Strategic Rail Review may dictate changes to that document.
 

craigybagel

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I think to be honest, the notion of new high speed lines in Ireland is fanciful to say the least. But some real improvements can be delivered on the existing lines, dealing with the capacity constraints with additional tracks and eliminating as many of the lingering PSRs as possible.

For example there will have to finally be recognition of the need to four track from north of Clontarf Road to Raheny to allow Belfast and Outer Suburban trains overtake inner DART services. Other capacity measures would perhaps include reconfiguring Dún Laoghaire to allow a centre turnback and for Rosslare services overtake DART trains there.

The real problem area is the Portadown to Belfast railway which just has never delivered the speeds that were promised for the Enterprise.

Others may be interested in the Iarnród Éireann strategy document which has been updated here:

It deals with the detailed plans up to 2027 and the outline strategy to 2040.

Obviously the Strategic Rail Review may dictate changes to that document.
I remember when I first heard about plans to add one or two extra tracks North of Clontarf - it was quite exciting because at the time I lived in a house who's garden backed onto the line and we thought there was a chance we'd get compulsorily purchased.

I moved out of that house 16 years ago and needless to say nothing has changed......

One thing that does worry me in these reviews is the dead hand of politics - and specifically the issue of "regional balance". We all know the most desperately needed railway investment is in and around Dublin - but you'll get more votes if you instead throw money at things like the Western Rail Corridor and other fine transporters of fresh air.....
 
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