Irish Rail leaves passengers powerless
June 13th 2011
Over the last month Rail Users Ireland (RUI) has been inundated by complaints from passengers concerning the fact the power sockets on intercity trains have suddenly stopped working. This fault is not specific to any route or train set and has been seen countrywide on all routes. As is typical Irish Rail have issued no statement or made available any notice either online or at stations to explain or indeed actually apologise to passengers.
Rail Users Ireland contacted a senior Irish Rail manager with responsibility for intercity services on May 30th. No reply or acknowledgement was received.
Rail Users Ireland understands that the safety trip switch fitted to approximately 14,000 sockets on the intercity fleet has been found to not function correctly. Instead of fixing the problem Irish Rail modified the trains so if a fault occurs instead of a single socket shutting down the power is cut to every power socket in that coach. Rail Users Ireland understands it requires only a few seconds to reset the power sockets to return normal service, however as Irish Rail no longer carries a guard on any domestic intercity service there is no one onboard to report the problem to.
A simple check before each journey made by the driver would significantly reduce the scale of the problem. However, as recently highlighted by a Rail Accident Investigation Unit investigation serious issues have arisen concerning the walk around inspections conducted by drivers after a serious and highly visible mechanical fault went unnoticed for 2 days. Given the scale of the problem it is clear that checks are not being made before each journey.
It is clear the equipment on the train is faulty, a fact that was not discovered until earlier this year despite 8 months of testing and over 3 years of passenger service which is worrying. If the power sockets do not meet specification, they are outside the safety requirements laid down in the Irish wiring standards and may result in a risk to human life.
The availability of a power socket on a train is one of the few benefits compared to travel by bus or by air which regularly offer both lower fares and faster journeys on some routes.
Dr Mark Gleeson, spokesperson for RUI, said "Irish Rail's failure to address this problem is further evidence of the continuing failure within Irish Rail to develop a customer service ethos. Passengers are already familiar with issues such as reservations not being displayed, doors jamming and the automatic announcements not working. This is yet another failure to pay attention to a detail which is important to passengers"
Dr Gleeson continued, "While Irish Rail will shortly announce the availability of Wi-Fi on all Dublin - Cork services, the trains with Wi-Fi don't have power sockets in standard class which for many people renders the availability of Wi-Fi useless. Of course, the trains which are not being fitted with Wi-Fi do have powers sockets, well sockets which sometimes have power."
Rail Users Ireland calls for the immediate replacement of all 14,000 or so sockets with a type proven safe and reliable by another railway administration. The cost of this replacement should be borne in full by the manufacturer of the train Hyundai Rotem.
Rail Users Ireland has notified the Rail Safety Commission of its concerns