Galway <---> Limerick: The slowest train in Europe?
OK - sorry for the provocative title, but it may well be
true. A distance of 70 miles that takes 2 hours. Thats
an average of 35 miles per hour (in old money!).
For comparison, if I was in France, I could travel 265
miles in 2 hours on a train (Paris-Lyon), or put another
way, in 2 hours I could go from Belfast to Cork.
Why is it so slow? The answer it seems is:
1) The trains don't go fast! Another poster on the forum says,
because of the bad track quality, maximum speed is 50 miles/hour.
2) The trains stop _everywhere_, at small towns and villages.
I've never done an exact calculation on this, but my reckoning is
each stop costs 5 minutes in total travel time (.....about
1.5 minutes to slow a heavy train, 2 minutes actual stop, 1.5
minutes to get it back up to speed again).
On the Galway - Limerick line there are 6 stops. So thats 30
minutes just for stops.
Solution to 1):
Well, thats a much bigger political debate, money, etc. Make
the train line better, make the trains better, etc. So thats
a much bigger fight (for another day....)
Solution to 2):
Well, hey presto, the solution to 2) costs nothing: Simply,
run some (not all) non-stop trains between the two cities.
That will shave 30 minutes off the trip (well... 70 miles
distance, for a train at 50 mph - should be travel time of
For more details (and a longer rant!!) read on!
So, what seems to me to be the best service would be:
1) Frequent "commuter" type trains into/out of the two
cities, at rush hours. I know for a fact many people
who work in Galway city live near athenry/craughwell/ardrahan
even Gort. So run a commuter service (every 20 minutes) from
7am to 9am from Gort in to Galway!
(I guess, at the other end, there are commuters from
Sixmilebridge/Ennis going to Limerick, so do the same there.)
2) Then, intercity services spread throughout the day, half of
them "non stop" and half "stop everywhere". e.g. 3 in each
direction of each type.
(At a limit - maybe the "non-stop" one should stop in Ennis).
What IE does not seem to get on a national basis is what has been
happenning successfully in Europe for years: Trains do not
have to stop everywhere, and moreover they SHOULD not all
stop everywhere. The point is, that by running trains that stop
in small places (and hence providing a _good_ service to the
small numbers of people that live there), you provide a
dis-service to the large numbers of people in the larger (cities),
by having long journeys. This might not be so crucial, if the
trains themselves were electric high-speed, that even by stopping
everywhere, could easily beat the car/bus. But in Ireland, the
train that stops everywhere will never beat the car/bus (at the
moment there are non-stop buses running Galway-Dublin in 2.5
hours, beating the fastest trains 2.9 hours).
And the bottom line is, even with all the other nice aspects of
train travel, if it can't beat fairly significantly the car/bus
(or ....dare I say it... the aeroplane), people won't use it in
Of course there will/would be protests from the people who live
in smaller places at trains flying right through their place.
But just, do the numbers:
Galway: 72,000 people
Limerick: 90,000 people
Ennis: 24,000 people.
and all other stops en-route have less than 3,000 people.
The reason the WRC is slow is it was never built for passenger services, it was built for freight. Its got too many corners and too many hills to allow a reasonable speed to be maintained. Compare that with Dublin Cork which hasn't a single corner which requires a limit of less than 80mph
The government where given three options
1. Minimum cost option to make safe for passengers circa 40mph
2. Best achieveable within existing route (i.e avoid major civil works) 60mph
3. Build from scratch a new direct and straight line (anything between 400million and 1 billion euro if you go via Shannon)
Option 2 was the chosen option and trains will run at 60mph except where the curves get in the way.
There is no business case for the line and all the reports say that, compare that with Midleton which had a strong case
The stop at Sixmilebridge seems justified, but Craughwell and Ardahan are a waste of money, considering the low speeds and the type of train a stop costs more like 3-4 minutes.
Given Ennis generates 200,000 journeys per annum, a stop is essential, Sixmilebridge is to have a bus to Shannon Airport. Even non stop the train can't win as the rail distance is much further than by road. the stop in Athenry cannot be ommitted as the train must reverse there, a stop in Gort is required to allow for a train passing the other way
The only workable investment would have been a second track from Athenry to Galway (it was two tracks till the early 1900's), add in a few extra stations and run every 30 minutes, very similar to Cork-Cobh would be cheap, effective and most of all be attractive to use
Is there a chance in the future that with a good level of passenger use that the line will be brought up to the same standard as the Dublin-Cork line.
Is the passenger number high?
Despite some hype the numbers are broadly in line with the 100,000 per annum pre opening estimate.
In comparison Dublin Cork services carry 3-4 million per annum at 4 times lower cost to the taxpayer
In fairness I dont think even the most fanatical WOTer claimed it would compete with the Dubllin Cork route, afterall theres around a million dubs who need bringing to a proper city.:D
If the Crusheen station proceeds it will get even slower!
In fairness though, sitric, a search of this forum, not to mention the mightily long threads on boards.ie, will tell you you're preaching to the choir. There were any number of expansion or state-of-good-repair projects that 106m and the design and engineering manpower required could have be employed on to bring in a multiple of the 100k passengers - including improvements to the northern and southern thirds of the WRC alignment itself.
These could have facilitated passengers by allowing more frequent departures rather than crews and trains wasting duty time and diesel sitting in termini waiting for a slot on the single track ahead.
Also, "too many corners" is not an excuse, unless there is no super-elevation on them, and that's not even safe for freight operations to be excluded. Grades are not a good excuse either, since DMUs have multiple driving axles and can surmount them far better than loco with trailer cars. The track is not the limiting factor in speed, especially when the track is brand new (and, presumably, does not have gauge variation problems through being under-maintained); signalling is.
In spite of the limitations, I still see promising useage of this line, even when one cuts through the (unspecified) "hype". The only buses that could beat it are express buses, and even with the reputedly low city populations (which do not reflect metropolitan area populations), there's a fantastic amount of roads traffic that you just cannot drive through, whereas the train even travelling at a relatively pokey average speed of 58 km/h will by-pass those jams.
By the way - using terms like superelevation will get this thread disappeared to the members section.
The slowest train in Europe?
I'm a bit late replying, but this question of average speed has come up in several threads, referring to different lines around the country. The Limerick-Galway service averages about 60km/h; let's not forget that the media chose to emphasise the line's slowness.
But it isn't the slowest in Europe. I can think of the narrow-gauge lines of northern Spain, or the Douro valley line in northern Portugal (especially the part east of Régua), where average speeds are down to 40-50km/h, and yet these lines are thriving. Mountainous terrain is generally what makes them slow. On certain parts of the Spanish narrow-gauge, there are buses doing the journey in half the time, using motorways that cut through the mountains. Yet the trains aren't empty, despite all the theories that they should be.
Obviously, whatever can be done to increase speeds should be done. But let's not be too dismissive of lines with low average speeds, as if everyone would suddenly stop using the trains once the road journey is faster. Frequency and good connections can make as big a difference as speed.
This also applies where the rail route is roundabout compared with the road route. In 1973 they decided that the main Dublin-Galway route would be via Portarlington. This was the longer of the two available routes. But that didn't suddenly mean that the trains would run empty.
well as regards the WRC, its a service between two of the biggest cities in the Country, The road journey is already much faster and soon to be faster still, the fares are more than the competing (faster) bus service, the frequency is quite frankly pants, the line is worked on a one-shift basis afaik which means no early morning or late night trains (need I go on?)
Quite frankly I would be very surprised if it wasn't the slowest inter-city service in Europe.It averages LESS than 60km/h which is pitifully slow, many TRACTORS can maintain that speed.
And Bus Eireann have just introduced a new express service between Limerick and Galway, the 51X. Only two stops, Gort and Oranmore. Journey time is listed as 90 minutes.
If we want to be frank about the realities Galway and Limerick are small cities on a European level. You would be surprised what European average actually is, Dublin Belfast believe it or not in journey times is exactly in line with European average
Its slow because it take roundabout route, the route isn't straight and has a lot of up and down.
The media is right to highlight the very clear difference in journey times, all the reports said not to open the line. The money would have been much better spent between Athenry and Galway on providing a commuter service, cost less to build, cost less to run and would generate a large number of passengers.
I wonder will many/any improvements be made in the 2011 timetable..
It's not even the slowest service in Ireland.
Limerick-Ballybrophy probably has that title.
And for services linking main cities Limerick-Waterford must have that title.
Actually, I would call Bilbao-San Sebastián an inter-city route. That’s the one that averages 40km/h, and where the buses are twice as fast. But the trains don’t run empty.
I’m not disputing the slow speed of the WRC; I’m just not sure what everyone is trying to prove. But my line of reason comes from being familiar with the flawed logic behind the arguments used for closing railways. The theory was always that buses could do the job adequately at lower cost. What actually happened was that less people used the replacement bus, since some now went by car and others travelled less often. Connecting traffic on the adjoining lines was also lost. This is why replacement buses were often withdrawn subsequently. Closures undermined the system as a whole.
So the result was more car journeys, less travelling overall, and perhaps not even a saving in public funds. Notice that the period of the most closures (1958-63) was also a time of rapidly increasing deficit. We as taxpayers might not even have gained anything from the closures.
Transport theories of that era, sometimes called “predict and provide”, assumed that the demand for any service was independent of its quality. They thought that a service could deteriorate and everyone would still have to use it. Aspects of quality obviously include journey time and fares, but they also include comfort, reliability, frequency, minimum number of changes, and regularity (whether the timetable is clock-face or not). Experience also shows that a train has a definite advantage over a bus in perceived quality. Curiously, this seems to be true no matter how good the bus service is.
This has lots of implications. One is that where trains and buses run parallel, they have distinct but overlapping markets. The growth in inter-city buses hasn’t destroyed the market for the parallel railways – even when the buses are faster. You may say, “No one will use the train if the bus is cheaper and quicker”, but experience shows otherwise. Trains have a lot more success in getting people out of their cars.
So in re-opening services, we are trying to reverse the process that happens in closures. Where a route is well served by buses, and it looks like we should leave things as they are, the two main motives for introducing a train service are:
1. Connections with adjoining lines mean more people making longer journeys. This may go a long way to covering costs, and
2. There will be a benefit to the wider community in reducing car journeys.
This is very much a summary, but there is a range of factors that RUI members should be familiar with. There was a mentality and a set of mistaken assumptions that led to the closures. Too many economists, sadly, still cling to this mentality, with their predict-and-provide approach and their dreams of a bus-only system. Let us make sure we don’t unwittingly make the same mistaken assumptions.
Much needs to be done on the WRC. In the short term this means improving frequency and regularity, running through trains to other lines, and improving connections generally (see my contribution to the timetable consultation). This will not all be negated just because road journeys can be faster.
Don't want to take this off topic, but have "done" the Bilbao-San Sebastien route. Bayjaysus it's slow!!!!
Yesterday at Limerick station, there were timetables posted up for all routes except Limerick-Galway. (There were however some Limerick-Galway little booklet timetables on a shelf).
There is no excuse for this.
The reality is millions of euro of OUR taxes have been spent building a second rate line. Theres not much you can do to imrove a moribund existing line perhaps but to WASTE it on this project is ridiculous and unforgivable and whats more it will now cost us countless millions in subsidies to keep it going to the detriment of other (perhaps more viable) bits of the system.
Exactly thats why we should have looked at Galway commuter services first.
Everyone is waiting for passenger numbers which are real, not guesswork
The numbers onboard on departure from Athenry for Limerick and on arrival from Limerick at Athenry are what we are interested in. Business is good Galway Athenry but that didn't need 100+ million spent to achieve.
I fully agree.A park and Ride stattion at Oranmore would seem a good idea but the plans i have heard of do not include a passing loop there and have only a small car park whereas at least a site should be chosen with potential for a larger car park. It wouls make sense to me if there were also P&R buses from here to parts of the city not served by the railway.
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