Why can't our trains run on time?
Any regular user of trains in Ireland knows just how inconsistent Iarnród Éireann are in running their trains. In fact things have got so bad that in recent years there has been extra time added in to the timetable because punctuality is so bad for some lines. Most journey times are slower than 20, or in some cases 40 years ago. But even with this extra padding, we are still late for connecting trains, meetings and appointments. Its not the case that there are any profound technical barriers to running trains on time, in fact its quite simple:
The four-step plan to running trains on time
- Close the platform gates three minutes before departure, as is supposed to happen
- When stopping at a station, it is not acceptable for a driver or train guard to stop for a chat with station staff while passengers wait to get to their destination
- Drivers and other train staff should be on the train in good time for departure of a train
The one-step plan to ease the burden on passengers
Tell us whats going on. Don't just leave us shivering on a platform or gazing in bewilderment at our fellow passengers. Inform us that we will be delayed, give an estimate as to how long the delay will be, and apologise (we are not aware of those three announcements happening together on any Irish rail service in history). Its not enough to have to delay a meeting with the words I'm on the train, we're delayed, I don't know when I'll get there.
Yes, but dont Iarnród Éireann have punctuality targets set by the government, which are routinely reached?
It is true that Iarnród Éireann have targets. To call them punctuality targets is a bit misleading however. Under Iarnród Éireann's Passenger Charter and the Service Level Agreement with the Dept. of Transport, the minimum performance target for Intercity rail services is 90% on time or within 10 minutes of time. For the DART its within 10 minutes of arriving in the city centre. The targets are both set and monitored by Iarnród Éireann so its no surprise the targets are routinely made. While publically the target is 90% its as low as 85% on certain routes a fact hidden from the public.
Ten minutes is a missed train or bus connection. Even ten minutes is enough to be late for work. Yet under the current passenger charter, this counts as on time. And if all that seems too difficult, you can always add more time onto the timetable (see above). Of course the standard used elsewhere is a train is late if it is more than 5 minutes late.
Rail Users Ireland fully supports the introduction of a target of being no later than 5 minutes late and for padding introduced in the timetable over the past few years to be removed. We propose the following targets based on best practice elsewhere:
- 99.5% of services to operate as per timetable
- 94% of suburban services to arrive within 5 min
- 90% of intercity services to arrive within 5 min