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NTA says 'three years best case scenario' for roll out of additional train carriages

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry said ‘stagger your journeys’ message isn’t practical for working people.

Image: Leah Farrell

“STAGGER YOUR JOURNEYS isn’t practical for working people,” the National Transport Authority was told at an Oireachtas committee today. 

Last month, Irish Rail tried to persuade Dart commuters to “stagger their journeys” during the morning rush hour in a bid to reduce the level of overcrowding on trains.

The rail company launched an initiative designed to encourage passengers who are flexible with the start time to their work or studies to consider using Dart services outside the peak morning period on weekdays.

A new website was launched – peaktime.ie – to allow Dart users to check what services are less crowded. According to Irish Rail, one in six of all weekday journeys on the Dart are made between 8am and 9am.

The campaign was raised with the NTA Anne Graham, with Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry raising concerns about the capacity on commuter trains. 

Graham said the NTA has proposed the purchase of 41 intercity rail carriages. A decision is yet to be made by government. 

If and when an order is signed off on for the additional rail cars, the NTA said it could take at least 24 months to see the carriages being put into use.

Later in the meeting, it emerged that “three years is the best case scenario”, with one official stating it could be four years.

nta NTA boss Anne Graham

The NTA said a tender for manufacture of the carriages will be issued later this month, with the order for the carriages expected to be signed off in the middle of next year. 

“‘Stagger your journeys’ isn’t practical for working people,” he said, adding that an employee working in a factory can’t ask the boss “for a delay in production to 11 o’clock till I can get into work”. 

Many of the service lines are overcrowded, and “it seems set to continue,” said Graham. 

MacSharry said not having additional capacity come on stream until at least 2021 or 2022 is “hardly a solution for now”. 

He questioned what other arrangements are being made due to the fact the NTA has acknowledged that overcrowding will get worse, and there are no new carriages coming online for years. 

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Graham confirmed that the NTA is considering “interim arrangements” which could include having buses on hand during peak times, in which rail tickets would be honoured. 

She said such measures would need to go to tender to secure bus operator and drivers would need to be hired. She said this could prove difficult as the Dublin region is currently experiencing a difficulty in recruiting drivers.

“We’re short on drivers and short on rail carriages,” said MacSharry.

“We need to come up with capacity solutions urgently,” he added. 

Graham said such a system would be difficult to manage, but said: “We are looking at it.”

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