Safety concerns stall new Enterprise service
A NEW train unveiled as part of the £12.2 million refurbished Belfast to Dublin enterprise service is prohibited from operating after its doors opened unexpectedly in the middle of two journeys in December, it has been revealed.
A prohibition notice was served on NI Railways by the Republic's Railway Safety Commission in Dublin, in a further blow to the already delayed upgraded Enterprise.
The notice means that the three De Dietrich Enterprise trains, which were launched in November and due to be in service by the end of 2015, all remain off the track.
It is understood that one of the incidents occurred on the outskirts of Dublin and the other involved a train passing through Newry.
The Commission confirmed that on one of the two occasions when doors opened unexpectedly mid-journey, a normal passenger service was in operation.
A spokeswoman for the RSC said: "On the 6th January the RSC issued a prohibition notice on the De Dietrich trains operating the Enterprise service in the Republic of Ireland. This was served on NI Railways following two wrong side door failures (doors opening while the train is in motion). The wrong side door failures posed an immediate and substantial risk to the safety of persons."
"The prohibition notice is independent of the RSC's approval on the newly re-furbished Enterprise trains. The doors or door circuit were not part of the re-furbishment project."
She added: "NI Railways is addressing our safety concerns and the RSC awaits the submission of evidence to demonstrate that the risk to the safety of persons is as low as reasonably practicable."
SDLP East Derry MLA John Dallat said the breach was "very disappointing" and added that he looked forward to "a full report" to the Regional Development Committee.
He said: "I have had a meeting with Chris Conway, Group Chief Executive of Translink, and have received an assurance that the loss of the licence is temporary and is expected to be restored within a very short time, perhaps a matter of days."
"The discovery that doors are not aligning clearly alarmed the safety authority in Dublin to such an extent that they took the drastic step to revoke the temporary licence and that is alarming."
The refurbishment project was awarded £12.2 million in EU funding and also received support from the Department of Regional Development and the Republic's Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
Davy McMurray, from the union Unite, slammed Translink management for the six week delay in delivering the new service.
He said: "Unite has facilitated this work in every way possible. Our members have accommodated management in terms of overtime and flexible working.
"This is a case of management failure and this overrun is resulting in considerable ongoing costs which will have to come out of what is an already hard-pressed budget for public transport services."
Mr McMurray added: "In the absence of the refurbished trains, the Enterprise service is being run with substitute trains mostly without first class carriages and with a limited catering service - all of which is undermining the quality of the service offered."
In a statement, a Translink spokeswoman said: "A significant refurbishment programme, which included an extensive safety approval process resulted in the Enterprise train being authorised to operate in passenger service on NI Railways and Irish Rail networks in November 2015. In the Republic of Ireland, the train was granted an interim operating certificate for three months in line with the Rail Safety Commission approval process.
"On December 17th the Enterprise was taken out of service following a report of a door fault. Following a full check of the Enterprise fleet, the train was returned to service on December 19th.
"On January 6th a further door incident occurred on the Enterprise which was immediately addressed by a member of staff on board and the train was removed from service."
The spokeswoman added that the two incidents were "unrelated" and said it was continuing to "work closely with the RSC to enable the Enterprise train to re-enter passenger service."
She said: "Translink treats safety as paramount and internal investigations have highlighted that the two door incidents are unrelated in nature and at no stage were passengers in any immediate danger.
"A technical investigation and remedial action is currently underway across the Enterprise fleet involving specialist door contractors and the train door manufacturer. The Enterprise train remains out of service while this is ongoing."