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Written Answers. - Rail Services.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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 117. Mr. Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  his plans to deal with overcrowding on mainline rail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23578/02]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Brennan): Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan I am very much aware of the problem of crowding on inter-city routes at peak periods, and am conscious of the discomfort and inconvenience this causes to passengers.

Iarnród Éireann has a statutory responsibility for ensuring the safety of its passengers. It is, therefore, a matter for the company to satisfy itself that the number of passengers being carried in any particular train or carriage does not compromise overall passenger safety.

Data provided by Iarnród Éireann shows that over the period from 1994 to 2001, passenger numbers on inter-city services increased from 7.8 million to an estimated 11.3 million. In order to address this growth in traffic, significant funding has been, and continues to be, made available to Iarnród Éireann for investment to improve the safety of the network, increase the passenger capacity of the system and improve the quality, reliability and speed of services.

Iarnród Éireann expects to place a contract in the coming weeks for the supply of 67 new carriages for use on inter-city routes. The total cost is €117 million and funding is being provided under the NDP. The vehicles are scheduled for delivery in late 2005 and following normal testing and commissioning procedures will enter service.

In addition, the 80 diesel railcars for use on suburban services, which will begin to be delivered from December, will allow a number of mark 3 push/pull trains, currently in use on Dublin outer suburban routes, to be transferred to inter-city routes. These two purchases will significantly reduce the age profile of the inter-city stock, increase available capacity and help to alleviate the present crowding difficulties.

In the meantime, the railway inspectorate of my Department continues to monitor developments in regard to crowding on trains. The inspectorate has been in contact with Iarnród Éireann on a number of occasions drawing its attention to the importance of keeping the issue of crowding under review.

Iarnród Éireann has commissioned an independent review of its strategy for managing crowding [182] on inter-city services and this is nearing finalisation. Pending completion of that review, crowding issues continue to be managed in a proactive manner by Iarnród Éireann. For instance, Iarnród Éireann has adopted a pre-booking system for tickets at bank holiday weekends and other particularly busy periods. The company is at present developing a modern ticket reservation system, which it plans to have in place on all inter-city services by the end of 2003.

The Railway Safety Bill, 2001, which is at Second Stage in this House, will require all railway undertakings, including Iarnród Éireann, to implement a formal safety management system and to describe that system in a document called a “safety case”. The Bill will require a railway undertaking to identify in its safety case all issues impacting on the safety of its operations. Such issues would include its strategy for managing crowding of trains. The railway safety commission, to be established under the Bill, will need to be satisfied that the overall safety management system is adequate to ensure the safety of passengers.

Questions Nos. 118 and 119 answered with Question No. 60.

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