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Unread 24-06-2006, 22:30   #1
Mark Gleeson
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Default A view from Northern Ireland

In the course of some business in Northern Ireland myself and Derek took the opportunity to try out Northern Ireland Railways and I have to say it was a pleasure to travel on a passenger focused railway

Stations despite being unstaffed are neatly kept
There was a timetable on each platform, including a brief summary showing the times of all trains to Belfast
The station name boards are back lit
Approx. 1 minute before train arrival automated announcement was made
Conductor was pleasant and efficient, he was in full uniform, with an ID badge which gave is ID number
Train impeccably clean inside and out
In general all the staff were neatly turned out, with ID badges
And the C3K railcar is simply stunning, we are talking CDE interior
Belfast Central is a sight to behold, its modern, airy and clean so much better than it was
Only downside was the PIS tripped up

And what is interesting is most of this does not cost money its all attitude
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Unread 25-06-2006, 01:39   #2
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I travel with them quite a bit and it is amazing the difference across NIR recently, for a very long time they have been stuck in a slowly decaying limbo with no funding and a crumbling service held together with duck tape.

They have made big improvements with the small stations in the last two years, they are very basic but all the signs and information has been replaced and it makes a huge difference to the appearance.

It is hard to believe that Central is in fact the same building. It used to be the most miserable, dark, cramped and unpleasant station I had ever seen. It has been transformed completely.

The staff are indeed far more likely to be acting in a professional manner than the IE good/awful attitude lottery, except for a few incidents back in the bad old days I have never had any bad experiences with the staff.

I have to say I am not so enthralled with the C3K trains, they are a hell of a lot better than the 2900s but after 90 minutes on a crowded GVS-Derry train my back was feeling seriously nostalgic for a comfortable 80 class bench seat.

The design of the cars and the interior finish is good, if it wasn't for the geniuses who think they know how to make ergonomic seats they would be a great unit for their purpose.

I would love to know what the price difference between a car of that stock and a car of 2900 stock is. Almost every aspect of them is higher quality, somehow I doubt the cost savings for IE were worth it.
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Unread 25-06-2006, 20:19   #3
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I back up what Mark posted. The two particular things that struck me were the "easy" printed timetables on the platforms showing the departures from that station and the backlit station signs. Well lit station names are very useful to all travellers, both regular and random. That is lacking on the IE network. I appreciate that a PIS announces stops and shows them, but a simple back lit sign is easy, in the event of a PIS fault.

It was also noticeable that all posters in central Station were coming from a customer service perspective rather than an engineering one. Translink promoted the fact that they had "user groups" across their transport modes and encouraged people to join them so they could have a say in how services are run. This contrasts with IE, who don't want to engage with P11.

NI Railways (as its now known) had staff that were very professional and well turned out. Central Station was "transformed" since I last saw it and everyone working in it appeared to take pride in this new environment. Considering it was originally built in 1976, this 21st century overhaul has served it well. Perhaps they have escaped the shackles of emulating CIE.

As for the CK3s, I found them to be remarkable. (albeit a short trip) Ticket checker was impeccable. (I know its just one trip out of the blue) Considering that though, the experience, compared to a similar commuter line in the south, (Kildare line) was astounding.

Our next trip will be on the Derry line. This section is woefully under developed, yet it forms the route which leads to the rail head for North Donegal in the Republic. We have contact with the "into the west lobby group" in Derry. While we don't support any connection southwards towards the WRC, we have expressed an interest in working with them in relation to developing the existing Derry - Dublin corridor with a 3 hour 30 minute journey time.

Mark,we took photos of various things, please post them up with references to what we were talking about.
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Unread 25-06-2006, 20:28   #4
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The Bangor platform at Cultra, note sign is back lit and also sign post to local point of interest. This is repeated at all stations we saw
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The invitation for users
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The short timetable, a long one was also provided at the shelter
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Last edited by Mark Gleeson : 25-06-2006 at 20:33.
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Unread 25-06-2006, 21:37   #5
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You'll note the telephone number for timetables is at the bottom of the last photo. The CK3s also feature the phone number on their bodies.
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Unread 26-06-2006, 08:24   #6
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What really annoys me is that IE have the resources to provide an excellent service, they simply don't bother.

Absolutely everything about IE smacks of poor management, a view of customers as a necessary evil that that get in the way of a smoothly running rail service rather than being the reason that the rail service exists.

They seem to have employed the same people to do their signage as Dubin's local authorities. i.e. they're all put up from the perspective of someone who has intimate knowledge of the station.

That being said, IE's stations (the smaller ones in particular) have improved a lot in recent years. I honestly don't find IE's trains dirty, the DART in particular is generally spotless.
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Unread 26-06-2006, 10:47   #7
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It's very easy to see how the 2900s could have been made better with the benefit of hindsight. On the other hand, IE had a fair bit of hindsight to draw on from the 2600, 2700 and 2800s. They put a lot of effort into getting the 2900s right from an engineering perspective. The IE engineers were involved throughout the design and assembly stages., and it really shows in terms of reliability.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said from a passenger viewpoint. You only have to take a ride on the earlier DMUs to be asking "is there anything that could be done to make them a bit quieter?" A little sound insulation under the floor couldn't cost the earth, could it? I don't think an exact replica of the C3K interior would be right for a commuter train. The reduced seating and increased standing room on the trains is, unfortunately, a necessary aspect of modern commuting. However, NIR went to the trouble of mocking up the interior and showing it to customers to get feedback. Couldn't IE have done the same?
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Unread 26-06-2006, 14:36   #8
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The one thing to remember is that the 29000s and the NIR railcars are two very different beasts with very different intended purposes.

The 29000s and the other IE commuter DMUs are intended to serve the same purpose as DART EMUs. i.e. they're supposed to be robust commuter trains with maximised people carrying capacity.

The NIR DMUs are really an intercity DMU with rather odd door placement!
I reckon the IE Intercity DMUs will compare very well once they start arriving.

Is there any idea of when the first versions should arrive?

Incidently, CAF did produce a mockup of the CDE but IE never really bothered to put it on display! It sat in a shed in Kent station if im not mistaken.
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Unread 26-06-2006, 14:52   #9
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The C3K is a very different machine but it has some similarities. The ceiling and luggage racks are straight out of the CDE intercity coaches. It has a much longer wheelbase which helps the ride. It does exhibit 29000 style low speed swaying, anyone how has been across the loop line bridge knows what I mean

The real difference is the staff

Late 2006 is the date
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Unread 26-06-2006, 15:04   #10
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I agree with you about the purpose of the 2900s/C3Ks. My point was that IE put a huge amount of effort into getting the train right from an engineer's point of view, but almost none from a passenger perspective. A few minor tweaks could have made a big difference. I don't know if anyone could have known about the rolling suspenseion in advance, since it was the first time CAF had built for Ireland, but it was certainly known that Irish track can be dodgy. However, the interior noice could certainly have been predicted and a little insulation would have gone a long way. I also think the interior could have been made a little more pleasent all round.

The C3Ks feel about half way between commuter and full intercity. You could probably reasonably call it a regional train. The doorway placement is commuter style, but there is not such a big standing area around it. Glass panels partially seperate the doorways from the rest of the passenger compartment, but you'd still get an icy blast when the doors open on a cold day. The finishing is all to a higher standard, with some nicer colours and it all looks a little less clinical. The noise problem has largely been dealt with, and the suspension is way better than 2900 or Enterprise, but not in the same league as Mk3 or CDE.

If the CDE is anything to go by, I think there is reason to hope that the IC DMUs will be a whole lot better than the C3Ks. The CDE ride was a bit off out of the box, but IE had obviously speced enough adjustability that they were able to get the spanners out and fiddle to produce something very close to the Mk3 ride. It's clear that they know what to aim for, and I would expect that they will be looking for something similar from the new kit. The fact that a mock-up was made of the CDE is very encouraging. It whould have been better if they'd sought feedback from customers, but at least they had a good look at the interior and got all the things they wanted.

Now, if only we could get them to give the same attention to detail when dealing with customers...
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Unread 26-06-2006, 15:18   #11
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NIR spent a lot of time on consultation, several thousand responses came back listing what passengers really wanted, Irish Rail never did that. I am aware of one UK based operator which took a group of passengers to the factory and got them to sit inside a new coach and asked to position the seats.

Its all about the passenger or should I say customer, Irish Rail have made for horrific design choices in recent years, they are instantly obvious

What really makes the difference is there is a conductor on each train, they control the doors and indeed stand on the platform while the train is halted, it looks professional and clearly more passenger focused

BTW the 14:10 Belfast Dublin is 20 minutes down due to a mechnical fault, translink actually have a decent website
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Unread 02-04-2007, 18:55   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derek Wheeler View Post
I back up what Mark posted. The two particular things that struck me were the "easy" printed timetables on the platforms showing the departures from that station and the backlit station signs. Well lit station names are very useful to all travellers, both regular and random. That is lacking on the IE network. I appreciate that a PIS announces stops and shows them, but a simple back lit sign is easy, in the event of a PIS fault.

It was also noticeable that all posters in central Station were coming from a customer service perspective rather than an engineering one. Translink promoted the fact that they had "user groups" across their transport modes and encouraged people to join them so they could have a say in how services are run. This contrasts with IE, who don't want to engage with P11.

NI Railways (as its now known) had staff that were very professional and well turned out. Central Station was "transformed" since I last saw it and everyone working in it appeared to take pride in this new environment. Considering it was originally built in 1976, this 21st century overhaul has served it well. Perhaps they have escaped the shackles of emulating CIE.

As for the CK3s, I found them to be remarkable. (albeit a short trip) Ticket checker was impeccable. (I know its just one trip out of the blue) Considering that though, the experience, compared to a similar commuter line in the south, (Kildare line) was astounding.

Our next trip will be on the Derry line. This section is woefully under developed, yet it forms the route which leads to the rail head for North Donegal in the Republic. We have contact with the "into the west lobby group" in Derry. While we don't support any connection southwards towards the WRC, we have expressed an interest in working with them in relation to developing the existing Derry - Dublin corridor with a 3 hour 30 minute journey time.
Mark,we took photos of various things, please post them up with references to what we were talking about.
Talking about this, does anyone know anything in relation to the old Derry-Portadown line? As far as I'm aware, a large portion of the alignment remains in place, as do a number of the bridges. Does anyone know of any cost estimates (even fairly unresearched ones) for putting this back in place? I mean, they want to re-open the ulster canal to bring 'economic regeneration'. Surely the railway line could do the same?
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Unread 02-04-2007, 20:55   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Gleeson View Post
NIR spent a lot of time on consultation, several thousand responses came back listing what passengers really wanted, Irish Rail never did that. I am aware of one UK based operator which took a group of passengers to the factory and got them to sit inside a new coach and asked to position the seats.
I think this sums up the difference between IE and NIR.

IE got the engineers in Drogheda heavily involved in the design of the 2900. They made a lot of tweaks to make maintenance easy. They also left out anything that wasn't considered essential - such as bits that would make the ride smoother or the interior quieter (I had the pleasure of sitting over a failed generator motor this evening, which made fora much quieter journey). The good thing about this is that they almost never break down. The bad thing is that they aren't the most comfortable trains in the world. They are trains designed for engineers, not passengers.

NIR got passengers involved, and it certainly shows form looking at the interior of the 3CK. It's a lot more comfortable from a passenger perspective. However, despite sharing quite a few components with the 2900, the reliability is nowhere near as good. Clearly it's a train designed for people rather than engineers.

It's a shame we can't combine the two and take the best aspects of each of them, because they both have things that they do well. Alas, I fear if such a union were to occur, the result might be we'd get an organisation that couldn't handle engineering or customer service.
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Unread 02-04-2007, 22:41   #14
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Isn't is simple actually?

You involve engineers from a reliability point of view and you involve passengers from a users point of view. This kind of thinking goes on in the private sector all the time in order to make the product a success on all levels. Railway management is still stuck in the dark ages.
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Unread 03-04-2007, 08:31   #15
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I work in IT ... one of the major changes happening currently around a lot of organizations is that the web is the first thing to be updated rather than the last. i.e. if a problem occurs it is put on the web and then everyone can see it and that is the reference. In IE the web is an afterthought at best.


For example if a train is 1 minute late a webpage is updated immediately and t[hen everyone internal and external to the organization can see it.
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Unread 04-04-2007, 11:31   #16
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Angry Portadown - Omagh - Derry

Quote:
Originally Posted by byrneeo View Post
Talking about this, does anyone know anything in relation to the old Derry-Portadown line? As far as I'm aware, a large portion of the alignment remains in place, as do a number of the bridges. Does anyone know of any cost estimates (even fairly unresearched ones) for putting this back in place? I mean, they want to re-open the ulster canal to bring 'economic regeneration'. Surely the railway line could do the same?
Last figure I had was well in excess of £ 400 million. Also, whilst much of the trackbed remains in situ in rural areas of the route, it has been seriously compromised by quite deliberately sited new roads particularly in Omagh and Strabane. the Northern DRD Roads Service are well known for their absolute loathing of any form of rail transport
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Unread 04-04-2007, 12:05   #17
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Given the line to Derry is already there via Belfast and falling to pieces that is first priority up north

The C3k train gets some complaints, one of which is air system problems. Not really its fault the track on the Derry line is so bad that the air suspension can't cope resulting in a fail safe on the brakes owing to lack of air pressure
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Unread 05-04-2007, 17:29   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moyrusk View Post
Last figure I had was well in excess of £ 400 million. Also, whilst much of the trackbed remains in situ in rural areas of the route, it has been seriously compromised by quite deliberately sited new roads particularly in Omagh and Strabane. the Northern DRD Roads Service are well known for their absolute loathing of any form of rail transport

actually, it must be said that there are a number of new houses along the alignment. i've noticed at least four between pomeroy and omagh. the route is a no go. the DRD are indeed tossers.
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Unread 05-04-2007, 17:53   #19
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The bit between Strabane and Omagh crosses the river a few times and is completely obliterated at Mountjoy where you won't even notice that it crosses the A5 road if you are driving around it. In fact it is probably worse than most of the WRC.

It would probably make more sense for Derry and NE Donegal if they improved and upgraded the existing line.
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Unread 05-04-2007, 23:21   #20
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RIGHT!

THREAD LOCKED.

Because this thread like many others, shows that although tranlink cannot service trains, when something fecks up they confess about it and try to resolve the issue unlike IE.

Also, they keep customers up to date, unlike IE.

And, P11 policy is not to interfere with NIR/Translink apart from Enerprise Services.
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