Reopening of Malahide Viaduct
November 16th 2009
Rail Users Ireland welcomes the reopening of the Malahide Viaduct but reminds all that we must not be sucked in by Irish Rail's back patting exercise for completing the repair in 3 months. The viaduct should never have collapsed. The facts of the collapse make for terrifying reading, Irish Rail received a warning in advance but failed to recognise the potential seriousness of the concerns raised. Though not a contributing factor in this case, the line had not been walked in 10 days, beyond the minimum of 7 days and well beyond the normal Irish Rail 3 times a week standard. Under slightly different circumstances this failure could have led to disastrous consequences.
Long before the viaduct collapsed passengers were already seeking alternative transport out of frustration with the rail service. Many found cheaper and faster alternatives. Given the positive experience of many of the alternative bus services, in terms of journey time and the guarantee of a seat many will never return to the train unless there is a massive change in the quality and value of service offered.
Rail Users Ireland calls for four key changes
A serious rethink of Dublin Belfast rail services, journey times must be reduced to 1 hour 40 minutes as was promised in the 1990's and an hourly service introduced, the 24 hour hourly bus option is both cheaper and in many cases faster. Many Dublin Belfast services take 2 hours 15 minutes, the exact same time as when the Enterprise service was introduced in 1947! Punctuality and reliability of the service has also been poor. While Northern Ireland Railways have launched extremely attractive fare discounts for cross border travel with a return fare of £7.50, Irish Rail's best offer is €20, twice the sterling price.
An immediate revision of the fare structure to eliminate ridiculous abnormalities. A passenger from Gormanston traveling to Dublin pays 17.20 for a return ticket if bought at peak hour, yet a Balbriggan passenger who has more trains to choose from is charged 8.00. Gormanston is only 3km from Balbriggan. These extortionate fares, without question are forcing potential passengers to ignore the train option.
Car parking charges have been identified by numerous commuters as the reason for resorting to driving or using the bus. Rail Users Ireland calls for the immediate withdrawal of car parking charges at all stations Dundalk - Dublin until at least 2010 in order to get passengers back on the train. Rail Users Ireland believes the withdrawal of car parking charges will result in more passengers traveling by train and will generate more revenue than the car park charges, sparing commuters a 30% hike on commuting costs and having to find a working pay and display machine a challenge matched only by finding a seat on the train. In January 2010 the situation should be reviewed with an aim to withdraw car parking charges nationwide.
Immediate introduction of refunds in cash and discounts to monthly and annual ticket holders where punctuality and reliability of the service fail to meet European standards. Such procedures will be legally required under EC/1371/2007 "Rail Passengers Rights and Obligations" which will shortly come into force.