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ACustomer 18-06-2019 07:26

Climate Action Plan
One would think that rail transport did not exist, when reading the new government Climate Action Plan. For example:

Data is given for CO2 emissions from cars, trucks, buses ships, but no mention at all of rail.

There are intentions to produce a new rail strategic plan: no specifics, one can imagine how many expensive consultants will be hires to produce another mountain of paper.

There is mention of acquiring hybrid trains: nothing more specigic, and already announced anyhow

Rail electrification to Maynooth, Hazlehatch and Drogheda is (mentioned) (promised), but we knew that was coming anyhow.

"Add additional capacity to LUAS network": this could mean almost anything.

ACustomer 18-06-2019 11:14

On a more detailed look, the LUAS capacity enhancement consists of delivering and commissioning the longer 55m trams for the Green line, which are extra modules to convert existing 45 metre trams. Also about 6 new "high-capacity" trams.

No mention of new LUAS routes. No mention of DART Underground, which if you are trying to radically enhance public transport capacity in the Dublin area, is what is needed - and that would be just the start of it!

Overall predictably pathetic from the DoT.

James Shields 18-06-2019 12:08

I think there's some very good stuff in the plan, but I agree it's disappointing that there isn't more mention of rail.

I'm not sure it's the place to get into specifics of routes, but a commitment to increase capacity, improving journey times, and reducing road journeys in private cars.

I think electrification is less important for climate goals than people might thing. Even if all our trains remain diesel, moving large numbers of commuters from cars to rail would result in massive reductions in emissions. However, after the initial installation cost, electrification reduces costs (of rolling stock, and of fuel and maintenance), and significantly improves reliability.

There seems to be a lot of emphasis on electric vehicles, which I think are an important part of the solution, but we need to massively reduce the number of car journeys we make, not just transfer them to electric cars.

ACustomer 18-06-2019 18:37

James Shields: You are right - moving people (and freight :( ) from road to rail is important. But this means that rail system capacity needs to be increased radically. No mention of that in the Climate Action Plan, other than vague references to another strategic rail review. Compared with the very detailed and radical proposals for cars and home heating the potential of rail is virtually totally neglected.

On electrification, the moral of the story is to look to Europe, not England, which has made a total horlicks of electrification (e.g.see the GWR fiasco). Scotland has a long-term programme which seems to deliver good results. The key to this is to have a steady annual programme running over decades. (e.g. Germany, and more recently Scotland). England by contrast has had a series of big projects producing investment feasts and famines. For a really good look at this see: https://www.railengineer.co.uk/2018/...ication-right/

Electification looks expensive up front. But as a long-term investment when you factor in the recurrent benefits (greater effective capacity, greater reliability, cheaper running costs, cheaper rolling stock pruchase price, etc etc) then the upfornt costs get put in perspective.

James Shields 19-06-2019 16:22

Not hard to see that a consistent long term roll out will be more cost effective than lots of one-off electrification.

I'm sceptical of the chances of it happening here, but the smart thing would be to use the Dublin area electrification to kick off a gradual electrification scheme for the whole country. The Cork commuter network would be the obvious follow on, perhaps followed by inter-city lines. Dual mode trains would allow the benefits of electrification to be realised immediately, and the benefits would increase as the project progressed.

ACustomer 19-06-2019 18:58

James Shields: There was a piece in to-day's Irish Times (by their motoring correspondent) on how impossibly ambitious are the Climate Action Plan targets for electric cars. It would require that practically 100% of all new cars registered from 2020 to 2025 be electric. Mad stuff.

Contrast that with the almost zero ambition for rail electrification.

You mention Cork suburban being next after Maynooth (+ Pace?), Hazlehatch and Drogheda for electrification. I doubt if Cork suburban is a big enough project to stand alone. I would imagine if/when mainline electrification links Dublin to Cork (25kv AC) that extending the wires on to Cobh and Midleton should be easy and economical. Then you just keep rolling the thing out further, just like the Germans and the Scots.

A problem that the UK (or at least the English) have is the separate asset ownership for the Network and for the train operators. This split has many good points but it also has one big problem: the big capital costs (power supply infrastructure, wires, etc) are borne by Network Rail, but many of the benefits in the form of lower operating costs, greater reliability, improved journey times, etc accrue largely to passengers and/or train operating companies. Thus the benefits are not necessarily fully internalised into Network Rail's investment decision-making process.

James Howard 20-06-2019 08:12

In Germany, I noticed that a lot of the regional trains are made up of carriages hauled by electric locomotives. Would this not be a reasonable approach for Irish Rail to adopt? It seems to me that the current focus on DMUs for everything ignores the fact that that you're effectively tying the network into diesel over a 30-40 year lifespan unless you throw everything away and start again. I'm guessing that this approach only works for regional and intercity use.

Irish Rail do have history in multi-annual programmes to reduce costs. Look at the steady progress in removing manually operated level crossings over the last 10 years or so. You eventually get to a point where the operational savings fund the remains of the programme. Unfortunately this doesn't work if you're throwing away rolling stock with 20 years of life left.

In any case when you combine the implications of retiring perfectly good trains early and the fact that we're still burning massive amounts for coal and peat for power generation, the CO2 savings of electrification are marginal at best. You'd probably get better overall CO2 savings by investing in boring stuff like multi-mode integration, capacity, new lines (both light and heavy rail) and shorter journey times since you'd be taking more cars off the road by providing a more attractive alternative.

comcor 20-06-2019 08:54

In reality some lines will not be electrified in our lifetimes and something else will be needed.

Even if you look at a country like The Netherlands, in remoter (and by Irish standards they are not remote at all) areas of the north, trains are still diesel. Although they are starting to experiment with hydrogen powered trains.

Electrification can probably be justified on Dublin and Cork commuter networks, Dublin-Cork, Dublin-Belfast and Limerick Junction-Limerick.

Even if we go beyond, it will be a long time before it happens, so alternative power sources will be required. However, the Dutch example shows it doesn't have to be diesel.

James Shields 20-06-2019 10:40

The article linked above highlights the German approach which has been to electrify roughly 200km of single line track per year for nearly 70 years. The obvious advantage of that approach is that they can keep knowledge and equipment in-house, and instead of breaking up the project team at the end of a project, they can simply move on to the next electrification project.

If we took a similar approach to electrifying the Dublin area, with perhaps a more modest goal of 50km per year.

If there was a commitment to electrify the Dublin Cork line after the Dublin area, that could be planned while Dublin electrification was taking place, and the same team could move on to the project. By retaining skills and equipment, and exectrifying at a consistent rate so that the team wouldn't have to go through expansion and reduction for different sized projects, there should be significant savings over a more piecemeal approach.

I believe there are plans for the 201s to be re-engined. Perhaps they could be converted to Diesel-Electric engines with pantographs for bi-mode running, or perhaps new bi-mode locomotives would have to be bought, but the Mk4s should be able to be retained. It might take 8-10 years to electrify all the way to Cork, but the diesel generator of the locomotive would need less and less use as it progressed.

Some bi-mode DEMUs could also be bought for lines that run part way on the Dublin Cork tracks, and when electrification reaches other cities, new EMU stock could be introduced and the bi-mode stock cascaded onto lines that were partly electrified.

Sadly I see little chance of there being anything planned beyond the Dublin area, but I can dream.

Mark Gleeson 23-06-2019 13:21

201 project has been cancelled.

Rail is very efficient to start with, so very little change is needed.

The ICR/22k fleet is likely to get the new gearbox/stage V engine/hybrid drive combo which will deliver a reduction in fuel consumption, improved performance and emissions reduction. That would make them the cleanest and most efficient of there type in use anywhere.

Electricifcation would be great but beyond Dublin and Cork we don't have the traffic density, there is a 30 miles section of the Dublin Cork line which has only 1 train an hour in each direction. You have to get the electricity from somewhere and thats a problem.

The Germans are quickly eliminating local hauled short set operation with EMU's, but for long distance and high capacity short distance they are still going with loco + coaches, but those locos are 8000hp, 3 times our 201

James Shields 24-06-2019 12:03

Thanks, Mark.

What frequency is needed to make electrification viable? I've seen some quite low frequency lines in France and Germany that have been electrified.

I agree rail transport is already pretty green, and there are various other options for making it carbon neutral (batteries, hydrogen, bio-fuels).

ACustomer 24-06-2019 18:52

The Climate Action Plan is quite radical and ambitious when it comes to emissions form home heating, electricity generation and private car transport: items which are likely to involve tens of Billions of Ä in costs. By contrast, the ambitions for public transport are pathetic: a few extra and longer trams for the LUAS (announced previously) and virtually no mention of heavy rail, apart from things already announced such as hoped-for tendering for new rolling stock..

If we are serious about radical reductions in CO2 emissions then there will have to be really big changes. A really heavy carbon tax will advantage rail transport in general, if it is already relatively low emissions. This should lead to a significant switch from bus to rail and especially from private cars to rail. We should be thinking of a really large change which will bring the capacity of the rail system into play. So itís not just a matter of electrification, but also of line capacity and investments in such items as better signalling, track doubling, extra passing loops and so forth. There is absolutely no indication that the powers that be are thinking about these issues.

There is a hugely disappointing pattern of announcing plans and then cancelling them or letting them wither on the vine, such as refurbishing the 201s (U.S. railroads get very long life form locomotives and a lot of big refurbishments are part of this). Similarly, is there any real action on the supposedly urgent need to lease (or buy?) 40 second-hand DMUs from the UK? Or has this too fallen victim to bureaucratic wrangling between the NTA, the DoT, Irish Rail and maybe other bodies?

At the centre of this is that we have a Minister for Transport who has absolutely no vision, no ambition for transport and no real leadership qualities, and an NTA whose projects (Metrolink and Bus Connects) seem to be designed to provoke maximum opposition.

So while I think electrification (assuming much greener electricity is delivered) is important, the public transport malaise is a much wider issue.

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