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Unread 29-08-2011, 10:40   #1
Mark Gleeson
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Default [article] Proposal to bring train journey times between cities below two hours

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Originally Posted by Irish Times
Proposal to bring train journey times between cities below two hours

TIM O'BRIEN

TRAIN TRAVEL times of less than two hours between Dublin and the regional cities of Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway are being proposed by Iarnród Éireann.

The move, in response to faster travel times on the State’s new motorways, would see work get under way on the development of high speed services to Cork and Galway beginning next year.

The plan is subject, however, to Government approval of an additional €175 million in funding – or €35 million a year between 2012 and 2016 – to improve speeds to Cork and Galway.

Phase two of the plan would tackle speeds on the routes between Dublin and Limerick and Dublin and Waterford.

Iarnród Éireann believes the move is necessary because currently it cannot compete with the shorter travel times offered by new motorways.

Decline in passenger numbers is inevitable without faster services to compete with car journeys already taking about two hours to Galway and less than three hours to Cork.

Iarnród Éireann has told the Government it wants to cut about 30 minutes off rail travel times to Cork and Galway as the first phase of its initiative.

At present just 50km of the 263km Dublin to Cork route is capable of the desired 160km/h inter-city speed.

None of the Dublin to Galway route is capable of running at 160km/h. The maximum speed between the cities is 130km/h – and that is available on just over half of the route.

Phase one would also have knock-on benefits for other services to and from Limerick, Kerry and Mayo as major sections of these journeys (Dublin-Limerick Junction for Limerick, Dublin-Mallow for Kerry, and Dublin-Athlone for Mayo) would see line speeds improve.

The company has estimated the cost of the 2012-2016 programme at €175 million, or approximately €35 million per annum.

The phase one works would lead to journey time improvements on each route as follows:

* Dublin to Cork would see an improvement of 25 minutes, reducing typical journey times to about two hours and 20 minutes.

* Dublin to Galway would improve by 33 minutes to under two hours and seven minutes.

* Dublin-Westport/Ballina would see knock-on journey time improvements of 22 minutes to about three hours and five minutes.

* Dublin to Limerick journey time improvements of 16 minutes would lead to travel times of about two hours.

* Some 20 minutes would be shaved off the almost four-hour journey from Dublin to Killarney/ Tralee.

* Dublin to Waterford journey time improvement would be seven minutes, bringing the trip down to about two hours and 13 minutes.

The company said its long-term goal would be to reduce speeds further, bringing all inter-city travel within the two-hour time frame.

The new Intercity fleet – 67 CAF Intercity carriages operating on the Dublin-Cork fleet, and the 183-carriage Intercity railcar fleet on other routes – is capable of 160 km/h speeds, so no further investment in fleet would be required.
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/...303143746.html
© Irish Times 2011
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Unread 29-08-2011, 11:42   #2
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What a typically dim piece from Tim O'Brien. It is obvious that there is huge pressure to cut the IE subvention, both current and capital and this is part of the lobbying: ask for a lot more money and you might just not get your budget cut as much.

I love the statement near the end where T O'B says: "The company said its long-term goal would be to reduce speeds further, ..." Marvellous Freudian slip that, given the record of speed deterioration on IE.

Someone should tell the guy that Dublin-Cork was timetables for 2h 20m ages ago, before comparatively recent heavy investment in signalling, locomotives and rolling stock
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Unread 29-08-2011, 12:19   #3
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2:20 was once per week non stop. Currently there is a 2 stop in 2:30 time twice a day which is comparable. I've experienced the 'fast' train and we were consistently 5-10 mph over the published speed limit most of the way. Not acceptable in the safety era we live in. How you average 80mph from Thurles with a 90mph limit just wan't going to work and it didn't a lot of the time as it ran late

The official best time is 2:07 which involved hitting 120+ mph, cracking a few brick arch bridges in Cork and structural cracks to the locomotives

Much of the track laid in the 1976-1984 period is life expired at this point, 25-30 years is the accepted life span, so money is needed to sort it out.

In reliability terms Dublin Cork is miles better now compared to any time in the past, trains run to time, the lights and air con work and there are 3 times more trains than 20 years ago

The amount sought is small, labour intensive and is spread around the country so it ticks a lot of boxes.
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Unread 29-08-2011, 13:03   #4
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I readily concede that overall service frequency and quality is much better now, and of course the once-a-week time of 2.20 was always a bit unrepresentative.

I also agree that funds are needed for track replacement/improvement on Dublin-Cork, but the way in which IE seem to have just woken up to the threat posed by the motorways sounds pathetic. The Dublin-Cork replacement/upgrade should have been pushed much more energatically 5 years ago.

I would think that in terms of politics and p.r. that a project which emphasises higher speeds might not seem as deserving as what is essentially the same project with emphasis on maintaining a piece of infractsructure which is of major importance.
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Unread 29-08-2011, 13:09   #5
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The upgrade was first pitched to the CIE board in September 2007. I know who made the pitch and it was for a far wider ranging upgrade to 125mph. That was carried by the media

Part of the work is already underway, 7 more route miles at 100mph is now available and more will follow bit by bit. Major upgrade at Lisduff which will lift speeds as well
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Unread 29-08-2011, 13:44   #6
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The 06:15 did it in 2 1/2 hours this morning, despite leaving Cork a couple of minutes late because of ticketing problems, speed restrictions at Buttevant and Kilmallock, and getting caught behing a slower moving train just before the 4-track section.
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Unread 29-08-2011, 13:52   #7
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Dublin to Waterford journey time improvement would be seven minutes, bringing the trip down to about two hours and 13 minutes.
Why waste money for a improvement of just 7 minutes. What are they going to change. Not a lot!!

They are realy just taking the 7 mins off the time between Newbridge and Heuston.
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Unread 29-08-2011, 13:53   #8
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I suspect a good portion of the Dublin-Waterford improvement would come from Dublin-Cork improvements before Cherryville.
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Unread 29-08-2011, 13:58   #9
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The proposed investment is principally

Hazelhatch - Portarlington - Athlone/Limerick Junction

All routes Heuston get a benefit
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Unread 30-08-2011, 10:12   #10
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When they talked about taking 25 mins off Dublin-Cork and 20 mins off Dublin-Tralee, I thought that must mean they were going to finally look at Cork-Mallow, which much be the slowest long stretch of line between Dublin and Cork. Admittedly, it's also the hilliest and most expensive to improve.

If they did that, there would be no harm in looking at the constantly postponed new stations along the line there at the same time, but that's probably wishful thinking on my part.
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Unread 30-08-2011, 10:53   #11
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Well if 25 minutes is off Cork and 20 off Tralee it would imply 5 minutes off Cork Mallow

Some fairly minor work on the throat of Cork station, tunnel etc would massively reduce the time taken
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Unread 30-08-2011, 11:24   #12
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This old chestnut again
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Unread 31-08-2011, 18:29   #13
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I see statements like "a lot of money for only x minutes" in various projects and it irritates me because it assumes the perspective of occasional passengers and does not indicate how much money it would be okay to spend to get that x minutes.

First of all, for commuters, that's 2*5*x. A 7 minute improvement (for example) over a journey gives regular travellers an hour of their lives not stuck on a train - two entire days over the course of a business year.

Secondly accelerating a train by that amount of time can allow it to squeeze ahead of trains it would otherwise be stuck behind.

Thirdly, it's not just passenger hours - it's driver hours. Waterford-Dublin is 16 sectors a day so a 7 minute saving works out to just shy of 2 hours of driver time saved daily and if all of the 7 minutes is north of Carlow the saving can be applied to 20 sectors a day, not 16. That doesn't include deadheading to/from Laois Train Care if applicable or if the freight services on the line can take advantage of a higher speed limit (especially if it is a raise of a 5mph PSR to say 25mph or whatever).

Now, that 7 minute gain isn't always realisable on all routes because of slot restrictions but my point is merely that small improvements when counted over the course of a day or more's operations can add up to quite a bit. The question is therefore what is the correct threshold in mEuro/minute where a speed increase passes a cost/benefit test.
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Unread 31-08-2011, 19:56   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Gleeson View Post
Well if 25 minutes is off Cork and 20 off Tralee it would imply 5 minutes off Cork Mallow

Some fairly minor work on the throat of Cork station, tunnel etc would massively reduce the time taken
I am intrigued as to what minor work at the throat of Cork station would massively reduce journey times.

Incidentally in the 1990s, it was routine to run from Mallow to Cork in 19½ to 21 minutes - current performance is really slow in comparison.

Given that so little has been produced in respect of improved journey times despite massive investment in track, signalling, level crossings, bridges and rolling stock, I am would need some convincing that anything worthwhile would result from even more "upgrading". Remember that journey times of under two hours to Limerick and under 2'-20" to Cork were routinely achieved in the past. Before spending even more money it needs to be explained why this permformance can can not be delivered right now.

Incidentally the following permitted speed improvements have recently been introduced on the Cork line with no effect on advertised journey times.
  • Line limit raised from 90 to 100 mph between Cherry Orchard and Hazelhatch
  • Line limit raised from 70 to 80/90mph between mp 27½ and mp 29 (Curragh)
  • Line limit raised to 80 mph through Portarlington.
  • Speed limit through Grange level crossing raised from 80 to 90 mph.
  • Speed limit through Emly raised from 80 to 100 mph.

Last edited by Inniskeen : 31-08-2011 at 19:58.
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Unread 01-09-2011, 07:32   #15
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So us poor sods on the Sligo line and those on the Rosslare line will have to continue to put up with the pathetically slow journey times. The morning Sligo express barely manages a 40MPH average between Edgeworthstown and Dublin despite only having 4 stops.

I would like to see how they propose getting Dublin - Sligo down to two hours when replacing the track, rolling stock, signalling and most of the level crossings over the last 15 years or so has resulted in pretty much the exact same journey times (some are marginally worse now).
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Unread 01-09-2011, 09:46   #16
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There is a series of restrictions approaching Cork which brings things to 60mph 4 miles out when in fact it should be 60 at the tunnel mouth, that makes a big difference. Dublin bound the limits are actually more generous and are in most cases rise faster than the trains ability to accelerate due the stiff hill

Combined with the excessive padding minimum 5 minutes to be saved inbound.

Curragh curves were 80 mph in the past so no gain there. 80 through Portarlington appeared in late 2007 and is key to the 2:30 timings. The Hazelhatch Cherry Orchard section offsets the go slow in the Hazelhatch Kildare section which is dug up in places currently.

There is more work to be done that when an increase in speed appears it is killed by temporary restrictions elsewhere. Lisduff will be dug up shortly so any gain elsewhere will be wiped out. Limerick Junction is great on paper but since most trains stop there the time saved is minimal. In some places the track is capable of more but the signaling restricts the top speed, so Ballybrophy is still 70mph, the signal spacing looks a little tight to me for faster.

There is a need for much greater coordination of the works to ensure minimum delay and maximum benefit

The 2011 timetable did shave several minutes off many times, not enough but it does deliver punctuality, in 2009 10-15 minute delays were the norm which led to regular problems. Punctuality comes first

The 2:30 time currently offered is a much greater achievement than the once off 2:20 timing of the past, particularly as the 2:30 timing is achieved with absolute adherence to the speed limits on a much busier railway. Quickest way to see savings is to bring the train every two hours to Limerick back and to run non stop to Thurles from Dublin on all Cork trains, and also fewer calls at Limerick Junction then you could bring most Dublin Cork trains to 2:35-2:45. The average time to Cork has fallen significantly (and thats what really actually matters to passengers) in recent times as the 75 mph stock has gone to the scrapyard. There is progress but the pace of progress is not sufficient
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Unread 01-09-2011, 10:53   #17
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Is a Cork-bound platform in Limerick Junction completely off the radar?

If it was put in place, it would allow Cork-Dublin and Dublin-Cork trains to be in the station at the same time, which would hugely improve Cork-Limerick timings. While I know that's not a big priority it seems a very easy to implement one.

It would also mean that late running trains would not delay each other there.

I've often wondered what the history of the bizarre layout at Limerick Junction is. It's a bit of a disaster for simultaneous usage and for Waterford bound trains.

Regarding the idea of not stopping between Thurles and Dublin on Dublin-Cork trains, it would have to allow for people between Dublin and Thurles to make a quick connection. There always seems to be a decent number of people get on the train to Cork from Port Laoise in particular.
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Unread 01-09-2011, 12:16   #18
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Dr Cian O'Callaghan at NIRSA in Maynooth has a blog post on it:

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If an investment of this sort were to be made, perhaps a better use of this money would be to subsidise ticket prices, thus allowing Irish Rail to increase their passenger numbers with the view to making these lower ticket prices more sustainable if more people were to be convinced to use the rail network on a regular basis.
Link
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Unread 01-09-2011, 12:50   #19
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Regarding the idea of not stopping between Thurles and Dublin on Dublin-Cork trains, it would have to allow for people between Dublin and Thurles to make a quick connection. There always seems to be a decent number of people get on the train to Cork from Port Laoise in particular.
Thats easy, train to Limerick calls most stations Kildare Thurles, arrives Thurles 10 minutes ahead of the next Cork train, step off, step on. Same in reverse. Thats what it was for a while in 2007/8 and it worked a treat.

The continued mantra of drop the prices and more will travel has no basis in accounting. If you charged everyone 10 euro single to Cork and filled every seat on every train the net taking would be less than current so thats clearly not viable. What is needed is a restructuring of the fares to even out the inconsistencies as they are really pushing passenger away
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Unread 01-09-2011, 14:14   #20
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I wonder to what extent if any more restrictive safety practices are responsible for the fact that the investment made over the years has not reduced times, or can we blame it all on poor utilisation by IE? For instance the Nenagh branch used to be cleared for 70mph - presumably to get back to 70mph now the branch would have to be in much better shape track and signalling wise than the previous occasion?

I concur with Mark G on fares - I would much rather IE demonstrate a higher quality product at a reasonable price than race to the bottom - a race they can never win. For that they will need to add customer facing staff back into the system and make those they hire get out and face the public rather than hiding in First etc.

Keeping fares reasonable is about getting costs controlled and one thing on my mind is to get IE completely focused on the lines they are carrying passengers on. It is madness that in addition to keeping trains moving that Dick and Co are notionally responsible for alignments like North Kerry, Claremorris-Collooney or that bridge outside Navan that was struck recently (Kingscourt line I think). A separate body spawned from NTA or OPW should take custody of such trackage/lands with a remit to maintain their structures, guard their boundaries and keep their costs off IE's books. Even if the costs are nominal in the scheme of things, the fact that the IE apparatus had to respond to that bridge strike on a line which hasn't earned them a euro in years (did it ever - was it still punts then?) is unacceptable when their finances are coming under severe pressure.
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