Northern Ireland news

Belfast-Dublin Enterprise train passengers suffer 4,000 delays in three years

The first newly refurbished Enterprise train as part of a £12.2 million train upgrade programme
Brendan Hughes

ENTERPRISE train passengers have suffered more than 4,000 delays on the Belfast-Dublin rail service in the past three years.

The delays on the cross-border route amount to more than 36 days and 16 hours of downtime.

On more than 60 occasions the stoppages lasted more than an hour – and on four journeys stretched beyond two hours.

Reasons for problems ranged from fatalities to signal failures and flooding, records obtained by The Irish News reveal.

Door faults caused more than 19 hours of delays, while security alerts caused stoppages on more than 50 occasions.

Signalling issues were cited in almost 90 delays which in total lasted more than 22 hours, and 90 stoppages were due to the Enterprise being "blocked" by Dublin's Dart rail service.

The Enterprise was also delayed three times, lasting almost an hour in total, because of the need to remove intoxicated passengers.

A total of 4,055 delays have been recorded between November 2015 and mid-November 2018, according to figures obtained by The Irish News through a Freedom of Information request.

But the number of stoppages has fallen, with 1,760 recorded in 2016, a further 1,117 in 2017 and 980 in the January to mid-November period of 2018.

A £12.2m refurbishment of the Enterprise fleet which began in 2015 has brought new livery and interiors, an overhaul of the trains' mechanical systems and a new electronic passenger reservation system.

But some passengers have criticised the service for journeys taking more than two hours, and timetables not enabling commuters to make 9am meetings in either Dublin or Belfast.

The scale of delays emerges as councillors north and south push for a feasibility study on developing a high-speed cross-border rail link.

A preliminary report discussed by Belfast councillors last week said current journey times offer no advantage over car and coach travel, and "attractiveness to business users is low".

It said the Belfast-Dublin socio-economic corridor accounts for more than one million jobs and a catchment population of 2.5 million, and reducing journey times to Dublin Airport would "enhance global connections".

SDLP assembly member Sinead Bradley, the party's infrastructure spokesperson, said Brexit has made it "vital we strengthen our all-island rail infrastructure".

"It is simply not acceptable that there has been over 4,000 delays on the Enterprise service," the South Down MLA said.

"The SDLP have consistently called for improved rail infrastructure that advances north-south connection, including a Derry-Dublin service.

"Now because of Brexit, it is vital we strengthen our all-island rail infrastructure to ensure better cross-border connectivity for businesses, students and workers alike."

Translink said 99.5 per cent of Enterprise trains operate as planned, 90 per cent arrive within 10 minutes of the published time and the number of delays has "steadily reduced".

A spokeswoman said Translink and Iarnród Éireann launched a new strategic development plan last year aimed at enhancing the Enterprise service.

"It envisages the introduction of new fleet to allow for an hourly frequency between the two cities and the ambition to reduce the average journey time to less than two hours within five years," she said.

"Longer term, our aspiration would be to invest in the infrastructure on the line and new rolling stock to achieve further frequency improvements and journey time reductions."

The plan requires an investment in fleet of €50m and €220m for infrastructure, and is key to "realising the full economic potential of the Belfast-to-Dublin corridor", the spokeswoman added.

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