Archive for the 'Railways' Category

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The railway of the West awakes

Monday, February 6th, 2006

More rustlings on the rails of the West of Ireland. For those of you unfamiliar with the situation, there has been a lot of lobbying, political discussion and promises, and plans with regard to a railway line running north-south through Connaught. This line connects Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Limerick, with junctions on the Dublin-Sligo line, Dublin-Westport/Ballina line, Dublin-Galway line and the railway out of Limerick station. The recent term coined for this line is the Western Railway Corridor.

The only part of the line in use, is that from Limerick to Ennis, which for the last two years has boasted 8 trains a day both ways (with almost all connecting to Dublin services). The Ennis to Athenry section and Athenry to Claremorris sections were in use occasionally for freight and rolling stock transfers up until a couple years ago. The connections at Athenry were severed in 2003 with the upgrade of the Dublin-Galway line. The section north of Claremorris (known as the “Burma Road” after the infamous railway built by prisoners of war in the far east) is a wild, meandaring line with many road crossings (it’s the reason for something like three level crossings across the N17 in quick succession). It hasn’t seen traffic in decades, and although track was never lifted, had been reclaimed by the wild.

Now that the scene is set, you can understand why it is quite extraordinary that just this past week, vehicles technically travelled again on the rails of not only Athenry to Claremorris and Ennis, but also Claremorris to Sligo. These were of course, JCBs with the addition of conventional off-road tractor tires, but nevertheless, they have travelled the routes once again. Vegetation has been cleared, hedges hacked back, and a vast corridor reopened.

The intention for Claremorris to Athenry is simply to fence off the corridor to prevent it being “claimed” by farmers or local councils. This means it can be used in the future if necessary. (Reopening a railway line from Cork to Midleton has required a Railway Order despite it still technically being owned by Iarnród Éireann/the State!) From Tuam to Claremorris is also likely just to be fenced off – south of this to Athenry will likely see work in the months ahead with a view to reopening.

Athenry to Ennis is to actually be relaid very shortly. Apparently the plans for Limerick-Galway railway services within two years are quite serious.

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No where near getting there

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

I had a nasty awakening today that brought me down to earth as regards Irish railways.

Dublin-Sligo (or vv.), a distance of 135 miles is timetabled for three hours. That’s an average speed of 45 mph.

It’s nothing short of an outrage, with the line having been upgraded to continuous welded rail (CWR).

Sure the line may not be nice and straight and allow say, 90+ mph running. But I am reasonably sure that simply better efficiency and timekeeping would surely bring the speed up a huge amount. In any case, nothing less than 60 mph average should be acceptable.

Hah – actually, our premier service (Dublin-Cork) is only 60 mph average now. It should be 70 mph at least.

It should be noted that times have been steadily getting worse, with journey times increasing in recent timetables. Even a decade ago some journey times were better.

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Rails to Midleton

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Some interesting posts on the railway forum I frequent, Irish Railway News (msn groups unfortunately). Some photos of clearance work on the railway line from Glouthane (Cóbh Junction) to Midleton. Good to see work commence on this project, even if it is preliminary.

The railway line to Youghal was closed to passengers in 1963, and to goods in 1978. The last passenger special (rail tour) to Youghal was in 1987, and to Midleton in 1988.

The line has never officially been closed, and the current state (waterlogged and rotten track, trees and shrub cover) is the result of no weedspraying or drainage works (when the gulleys, ditches and drains block up, the ballast goes bad and falls apart, and the track rots) in almost 20 years. The track was poor anyway in some places, as CIÉ were so cash starved that they replaced worn mainline track with the good track on this branch. There’s actually two miles of missing track between Midleton and Youghal.

The line is being rebuilt with new track and modern signalling (mini-CTC). IÉ have had to apply for a railway order in order to allow them to fully clear the track and re-assert their control of the land in question.

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In somewhat related news, IÉ ran a track inspection car on the Western Railway Corridor from Claremorris to Athenry to Ennis. This section of line is currently disused but still navigitable. Last “real” traffic was ballast trains from Athenry to Ennis for the work on the Limerick-Ennis line.

As regards Ennis, IÉ published their new timetable. Among many changes to routes all over the country, services to/from Ennis have increased on a Sunday. This means the service is now 8 trains a day each direction, 7 days a week. Almost all connect to Dublin, with only one change at Limerick or Limerick Junction (and in one or two cases, no change).

One can now be in Dublin for 08:30 when travelling from Limerick or Ennis with the new timetabling.