Northern Ireland news

Translink investigates after Dublin to Belfast train journey leaves woman 'sick with worry' over social distancing

Dublin's Connolly Station, from where the Dublin to Belfast Enterprise line departs.
Paul Ainsworth

TRANSLINK is carrying out an investigation after claims that passengers on a Dublin to Belfast train were packed tightly into carriages without visible social distancing measures in place.

Travellers on board the Belfast-bound train which left Dublin's Connolly Station at 11.20am on Saturday were forced to sit and stand in conditions which one passenger said left her "sick with worry".

Elizabeth Byrne, who lives in Belfast but is originally from Dublin, told BBC Radio Ulster that she has been forced to self-isolate for two weeks over fears she might have been exposed to coronavirus from other passengers, many of whom she said were not wearing face coverings.

Ms Byrne first revealed her concern in a tweet posted while she was on the train on Saturday, writing: "I spent months of lockdown alone without leaving Belfast or seeing family. I waited until it was safe. I tried hard to follow guidelines, to be careful. Now I'm surrounded by people less than a foot away, chatting without masks. I feel sick with worry."

She later said she witnessed up to 40 more passengers embarking at Dundalk, describing the situation as "crazy".

The row comes as Translink and Irish Rail restored their full timetable yesterday for the Belfast to Dublin Enterprise service, which had been operating under a reduced summer schedule.

The new timetable is due to increasing passenger demand, Translink has said, highlighting safety measures to protect travellers including "rigorous deep cleaning regimes".

Face masks are also required by law on public transport on both sides of the border.

In a statement, Translink blamed "exceptional circumstances" for the crowded train on Saturday, which Ms Byrne said was not the normal Enterprise, but standard Translink carriages used on rail routes in the north.

A spokesperson said: "We have managed public transport services safely during Covid-19 and continue to do so, however these were exceptional circumstances on Saturday, with a power failure leading to operational difficulties, and an additional train was provided on the 11.20 from Dublin.

"We accept that communication was not adequate regarding this. We are carrying out an investigation to ensure we learn from instances like this and are also reviewing our boarding and communications arrangements for passengers with our colleagues in Irish Rail.

"Where services are busy, we do recommend that passengers allow additional time for their journey as it may be necessary to wait for the next train."

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