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On Time - We Think Not

The performance measures used by Irish Rail do not align with European rail industry standards

Irish Rail consider all trains (bar DART) to be on time if they arrive within 10 minutes of published time. A 5 minute standard is adopted in the UK and NI for all commuter services and for all services Holland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and many others and is considered the de facto standard. It gets worse as Irish Rail's charter implies that only at certain times of day is commuter train performance measured.

In recent months Rail Users Ireland has observed a significant variance between the publicly reported punctuality and reliability figures and the reality experienced on the ground, certain routes where given a 100% reliability score yet passengers where transferred by bus on a number of occasions without prior notice.

You would expect that the performance results count all trains 7 days a week, alas no, as the Irish Rail passenger charter clearly shows only rush hour commuter trains are recorded. No standards exist for Cork-Cobh/Midleton at all!

Irish Rail steadfastly refuse to release details of train performance or reliability to allow independent validation. In the past Rail Users Ireland has together with the Newbridge Rail Group sought access to the raw data from Irish Rail's signaling system to independently analyse the performance and reliability of services. Irish Rail refused to reveal any information.

The notices placed at stations are not subject to audit despite the text implying that they are, as the audits are conducted only quarterly and only on the data submitted to the Department of Transport which according to internal reports obtained by Rail Users Ireland through Freedom of Information quote performance measures which are significantly easier than those in the customer charter. Irish Rail where of course unable or unwilling to reveal who the external auditors are.

If the performance is as good as Irish Rail claim, they have nothing to lose, and will gain considerable public relations value from independent evaluation, or are they worried that serious issues will be uncovered?

Belfast Dublin

The arrival times of 37 of the 40 scheduled trains from Belfast to Dublin where recorded for the period August 15-21st, the remaining 3 services where assumed to have arrived on time for the purposes of calculation.

  • 12 arrived within 3 minutes of published time - 30%
  • 15 arrived within 5 minutes of published time - 38%
  • 28 arrived within 10 minutes of published time - 70% Target is 90%
  • A total of 12 trains arrived more than 10 minutes late - 30%

The worst performing train was the 8:00 Belfast Dublin, the main business train of the day, which arrived more than 10 minutes late on all 5 mornings, the average delay being 17.6 minutes. These figures have not been challenged by Irish Rail

The week chosen, contained no breakdowns, signaling failures or security incidents and therefore offered an extremely fair sample set of data. In comparison on August 4th, at least 6 services where delayed by more than 30 minutes as a result or two separate breakdowns.

What Do We Want?

A formal contractual arrangement between Irish Rail and the Department of Transport to enforce basic standards and protect passengers Punctuality

Call for the immediate introduction of targets in line with European railways, so that

  • 94% of suburban and regional services to arrive within 5 minutes (currently 90% for 10 minutes)
  • 90% of intercity services to arrive within 5 minutes (currently 90% for 10 minutes)
  • 99.5% of services to operate as planned (currently 98%)
  • 8 weeks notice of timetable changes for any reason (2 days notice is common)
Last Updated: September 07 2009 16:45:00
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