UPDATED: As Irish Rail heads into its busy summer season for InterCity rail use it has been confirmed that new carriages — to be introduced towards the end of the year — will substantially increase the bicycle-carrying capacity on many services.
Irish Rail is testing the first batches of the 41 new carriages with multi-purpose areas, which were ordered in December 2019.
These new carriages will be added into the centre of a type of Irish Rail train known as InterCity Railcars — pictured above — which serve InterCity and long-distance Commuter services.
The number of extra bicycle spaces per train will depend on the train configuration by service and route. If the service is currently served by a train with two bicycle spaces, this will likely increase to four spaces, and, if there are currently four spaces, this will likely increase to six or eight marked bicycle spaces with restraints.
A further 6 bicycles will be able to be carried in the multipurpose area without restraints — so, the owners must stay with those bicycles.
The InterCity Railcars service long-distance commuter services to Longford, Portlaoise, and Dundalk, and generally on InterCity services to Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Mayo, and Tralee.
Barry Kenny, a spokesperson for Irish Rail said: “The multipurpose area has flip up seats on both sides. Bicycle restraint straps are fitted on one side with floor marking. This allows two bicycles to be leaned against the flip up seats and restrained by a seat belt type strap. The intention is that these could be unattended.”
He explained that the side of the multipurpose with flip down seats which isn’t marked for bicycles and does not have safety restraints can also be used for bicycles, but that the owners must stay with the bicycles.
He said: “The design of the multipurpose area means bicycles can be stowed on either side, but should be attended where the restraints are not present. On certain journeys it is envisaged that up to 6 bicycles could be carried in this area assuming that they were attended.”
Kenny added: “The 41 new Intercity Railcar carriages are expected to be certified and approved for service at the end of November 2023 and will then be introduced into the fleet over a period of approximately 3 months.”
In response to questions from IrishCycle.com, the Department of Transport said in a statement today that the new capacity will satisfy the EU requirement of four bicycle spaces per new or refurbished train.
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The EU requirement for at least four bicycle spaces on new or refurbished trains was introduced in 2021 after lobbying from the European Cyclists’ Federation, whose local member is Cyclist.ie.
At the time the Council of the European Union said: “The general rule will be at least four spaces for bicycles on each train. After consulting the public, railway undertakings may decide to include a different number of spaces based on the type of service, the size of the train and the foreseeable demand for carriage of bicycles.”
It added: “Member states may also set this number higher if there is a greater demand for carrying bicycles. The bicycle space requirements will apply when a railway undertaking orders new rolling stock or when it performs a major upgrade of older rolling stock.”
Some countries have gone beyond the minimum of four, including France which has made set the minimum at eight bicycles per train. Although this is generally for much higher-capacity trains.
On Intercity services, booking bicycle spaces will continue to be free but mandatory. While on all Commuter services, bicycles will still not be allowed on board on-peak.
A spokesperson from the Department of Transport said: “Each of the new ICR intermediate carriages incorporates a large multipurpose area at one end. These areas will be capable of accommodating unfolded buggies and tip-up seats will be provided therein for use by the person(s) accompanying each buggy.”
“Each of these areas will also have sufficient space to accommodate 2 bicycles; combined with the bicycle rack already located in the cab/end vehicle of each ICR unit, this will enable at least 4 bicycles to be carried on each ICR unit, which aligns with the latest bicycle carriage requirements applicable to new and refurbished trains destined for operation within the European Union.”
Mark Gleeson, a spokesperson for Rail Users Ireland, said: “We welcome the delivery of the 41 extra intercity carriages, the multi-purpose area will provide much-needed bicycle capacity but can also be used for seating at rush hour periods when bikes are not permitted onboard [commuter services].”
“These coaches will be several years late entering service owing to unacceptable delays and bureaucracy and the NTA and government level which has left passengers forced to travel in unacceptable overcrowded conditions,” he said.
Gleeson said: “The issue here is there are way more passengers than seats and we are playing catch up, 41 coaches is only 6% extra [passenger-carrying] capacity,”
On the bicycles per train he said that, in many cases, users will see 6-8 spaces when train sets are doubled up, depending on the configuration of trains.
Gleeson said that, for example, the Dublin to Westport service will likely have 7 or 8 coaches per train so that will be 6-8 bike spaces vs 4 today. But, on the Waterford line, there is a limit of 6 coaches so those trains will be stuck at 4 spaces, so no improvement.
New bike racks also for 29000 DMU trains
The Department of Transport also said that Irish Rail has been given funding to install bicycle racks on its 29000 Diesel Multiple Unit trains, which are currently typically used for Northern line Commuter services to Drogheda and Dundalk as well as InterCity to Rosslare Europort
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: “In addition in 2023, funding has been allocated to an [Irish Rail] project to install new bicycle racks and tip-up seats area on the 29000 Diesel Multiple Unit. Two seating bay areas consisting of 7 seats will be removed and replaced with 4/5 bicycle spaces and 6 tip-up seats.”
Gleeson said: “It’s a step forward but a reduction in available seating on a train already known for its low ratio of seats to standing room is a concern. None of these changes will permit bikes at peak hours as is the case across Europe on the grounds of safety and capacity.”
Correction: This article originally ended with the line that “Irish Rail was contacted for this article but did not reply before publication”. This is incorrect. There was an oversight — Irish Rail had replied. IrishCycle.com apologises for this error and the article has now been edited to give prominence to the statement from the company and generally to reflect such.