Ireland’s Railway Review vague on new infrastructure delivery upto 2030

The All-Island Strategic Rail Review — which would cost €36.8 billion to implement — long-fingers much of the promised new infrastructure works until after 2030, with unclear timelines for most of the planned changes.

Many measures, that are seen as vital to the decarbonisation of railways in Ireland, are earmarked for after 2030 or only vaguely said to be perhaps delivered before 2030, when Ireland is supposed to have halved its emissions from transport.

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The plan long-fingers some measures to post 2040. This includes connecting “the heavy rail network to Dublin Airport” and “a cross-Dublin solution” — aka Dart Underground — which was proposed in 1972 and was granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanála in 2011, fresh permissions would no be needed.

Feljin Jose, chairperson of the Dublin Commuter Coalition, said: “The recommendations in this report will transform Ireland. However, most of these ideas have been around for decades. What we need now is commitment and action.”

“Implementation of these measures will span several governments and it’s vital now that both the government and opposition commit to funding these measures so that work can begin as soon as possible,” he said.

Jose added: “After decades of underinvestment, we finally have a chance to rebuild our rail network and adapt it for the 21st century.”

Mark Gleeson a spokesperson for Rail Users Ireland said that the group welcomes the long-delayed publication of the All-Island Strategic Rail Review draft. He said “The proposals within will go a long way to address many of the shortcomings and gaps in the current network and passenger experience.”

“The challenge is to convert the theory into real investment and to make this real. This is not government policy nor is any element funded,” he said.

Gleeson added: “Now is the time for governments and all political parties north and south to commit themselves fully, subject to planning and economic due diligence, to the timely delivery of the proposals.”

The measures in the review are split into three time frames — short-term up to 2030, described as “could be delivered within the next seven years subject to funding and appropriate analysis and appraisal”; 2030-2040 “interventions that are likely to take longer than seven years to deliver, but could still be delivered (or have made significant progress) by the end of the next decade)”; and longer-term between 2040 and 2050.

2023-2030

  • Increase Intercity service frequencies to at least hourly between Dublin and Belfast, Cork/Limerick, Galway, and Waterford.
  • Increase other service frequencies to at least one train per two hours between GalwayLimerick, Limerick-Cork, Limerick Ballybrophy, Dublin-Sligo, Dublin-Mayo, and Greystones-Rosslare Europort.
  • Through services between Cork and Galway via Limerick with modifications to track and platforms at Limerick Junction to allow more through movements Cork-Limerick.
  • Build the Limerick – Foynes railway and develop concept for local passenger services between Foynes and Shannon Airport.
  • Join regional services up to deliver more direct services between Galway – Limerick
    – Cork and Waterford.
  • Improve online capacity and line speeds on various parts of the rail network, such as between Limerick and Limerick Junction.
  • Reduce freight Track Access Charges.
  • Start to reinstate Claremorris – Athenry.
  • Start to Reinstate Antrim – Lisburn with a station at Belfast International Airport.
  • Examine the feasibility of RoRo rail freight with a view to reinstating the South Wexford railway between Waterford and Rosslare Europort.
  • Identify and deliver a solution for first-mile last-mile rail freight access for Dublin Port.
  • Continue to invest in initiatives that improve customer experience/integration.

2030-2040 (but maybe sooner)

  • Invest in developing the skills, supply chains, and rolling stock to deliver the Rail Decarbonisation Strategy.
  • Deliver capacity and speed improvements to existing core intercity corridors and start rolling out overhead electrification on intercity routes.
  • Procure hybrid and electric rolling stock as each fleet comes to their end of life.
  • Upgrade intercity routes to 160 – 200km/h.
  • Increase other line speeds to 120 – 160km/h.
  • Upgrade the cross-country rail network to a dual-track railway and increase commuter and intercity service frequencies.
  • Develop new stations in the Belfast, Cork, Derry-Londonderry (including Limavady), and Limerick – Shannon city regions and boost service frequencies in these areas (including Belfast – Coleraine – Portrush).
  • Develop a network of inland rail freight terminals on the rail network.
  • Improve on-board experience through rolling stock procurement and renewal.
  • Improve station experience through investment and expansion.
  • Develop appropriate arrangements for planning cross-border and services.
  • Start to develop a cross-Dublin solution.
  • Start extending the railway from Portadown to Derry-Londonderry and Letterkenny.

2040-2050

  • Build new higher speed railways (or fourtrack existing railways) on busy corridors between Belfast – Newry, Drogheda – Dublin, and Portarlington/Kildare – Hazelhatch. This might be phased with some medium term elements.
  • Deliver a cross-Dublin solution and connect the heavy rail network to Dublin Airport.
  • Maximise segregation of intercity/regional services from local services.
  • Complete the new railway from Portadown to Derry~Londonderry and Letterkenny.
  • Extend the railway in the North Midlands (Portadown – Mullingar – Athlone).
  • Build a new link between Maynooth and the Dublin – Cork railway.
  • Complete the electrification and decarbonisation of the railways.

The report outlines: “In the short term, some frequency enhancements can be delivered with existing infrastructure thanks to the planned procurement of additional rolling stock. However, to achieve a step change in frequencies and operating performance, it will be necessary to add capacity on sections of the rail network where there is a high level of conflict between intercity, freight and local commuter rail services.”

It said: “This is particularly relevant on busy sections of the railway on the approaches to Dublin and Belfast, and on single-tracked sections of the railway such as Portarlington – Athlone. Most capacity can be delivered by building additional track, upgrading junctions, and adding platform capacity in some places. These improvements could be delivered in parallel with line speed improvements. In some cases, it may be easier to develop new lines rather than deliver dual or four-tracking upgrades on existing corridors, such as between Drogheda and Clongriffin.”

The report states that “due to the condition of existing corridors” or alingments that both Foynes and Lisburn – Antrim railways in the north east and Claremorris – Athenry in the west can be delivered soon or in the relatively near future.

It said that “Four tracking Dublin – Clongriffin is essential to enable the intercity network to grow, followed by the Dublin tunnel”.

It is weaker on the South Wexford Railway which it said should be “informed by a general examination of the feasibility of Rollon/Roll-off rail freight across the network.” Rosslare Europort is a RoRo port — which means trucks roll on and off the ferries, this type of cargo is less suited to rail and there are already or planned direct connections to container ports in the east and west.

The review states that “New railways are expected to take longer to plan and construct. To ensure a relatively
even distribution of annual capital spend, it is recommended that new railways are built sequentially (by each jurisdiction)” and that, in this regard, the “roadmap prioritises the Portadown – Derry-Londonderry route over other new railways as it delivers key intercity and regional objectives for this Review, and it serves a relatively large population.”

Department of Transport in the Republic and the Department of Infrastructure in the North said that interested parties can make submissions by email to strategicrailreview@arup.com by 11:59pm on Friday 29 September 2023.

They said subject to approvals in the Republic and the North, the final Review is expected to be published “around the end of the year”. A statement said: “The Review’s recommendations provide policy makers and Ministers in both jurisdictions with an evidence-based framework to inform future investment decisions. More detailed work will be needed to test the feasibility and affordability of many of the recommendations to inform decision making.”

It added: “Should there continue to be an absence of Ministers in the NI Executive, approval will be considered taking into account the relevant legislation in place at the time.”

MORE: Read the draft review and see how to reply to the consultation.


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1 comments

  1. I believe that having a better connected and faster railway system would help with the housing crisis, traffic jams and and more. But this timeframe is ridiculous.

    Reply

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