Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 18 Feb 1999

Vol. 500 No. 6

Ceisteanna – Questions. Priority Questions. - Rail Safety.

Emmet Stagg


6 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Public Enterprise if her chief railway inspecting officer has indicated to her that he is satisfied that passenger safety is being catered for by Iarnród Éireann regarding the overcrowding of trains on the Maynooth suburban line and the Arrow line; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4555/99]

I have no statutory function in this matter. Responsibility for ensuring the safety of railway operations rests with Iarnród Éireann. Accordingly, it is a matter for Iarnród Éireann to satisfy itself that the number of passengers being carried in any train or carriage does not compromise overall passenger safety.

There are no safety standards in relation to overcrowding of trains, either in this country or at EU level. However, my Department's railway inspecting officer has been in contact with Iarnród Éireann, drawing its attention to the importance of keeping this matter under review.

To meet the increased capacity demands on this and other suburban lines, EU and Exchequer funding is being provided to purchase 20 diesel rail carriages at a total cost of £20 million. Of these, 12 are for use on the Maynooth line. The extra rail carriages will allow for three additional services on this line during morning and evening peak times.

In addition, the doubling of the track between Clonsilla and Maynooth, the resignalling of the line and the lengthening of the station platforms will facilitate additional train services and increase the passenger carrying capacity of the line.

I welcome the news that 12 of the 20 carriages will be designated for the Maynooth line because there is gross overcrowding on that line. The doubling of the track will also ease the situation.

Is the Minister aware that funding for the signalling – I do not know much about the technicalities of it but I understand it is critical to the success of the doubling of the track – is not now available? Therefore, the money invested in new rolling stock and track will not be effective.

The signalling, to which the Deputy referred, is city centre signalling, and on it will hinge matters for many lines. There is no communication about the city centre signalling project going ahead. If it had been possible to complete this work in the time for the reallocated money, it would have been done. However, it was not possible. First, there is a limit to the amount of work that can be done simultaneously, given the need to retain a reasonable level of suburban rail. There is then a lead-in period.

The pre-planning work on the city centre signalling project could have not have been completed prior to 2000. However, it is going ahead and there will be improvements in 1999, with the final improvements in 2000. Installation of the new track will commence in the second half of this year. The first element of track doubling will be moving the existing single track, where necessary, to accommodate the new one. This will commence in February 1999 and will be followed by lowering track work at bridges where there is insufficient clearance. Thereafter, the new formation will be prepared. The installation of the track will commence in the second half of 1999. Iarnród Éireann has advised that design work is now well advanced for track remodelling, bridge renewal, resignalling, new platforms and station upgrading.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is the statutory date indicative of the completion date for provision of rolling stock, doubling of the track and the upgrading of facilities?

The new carriages will be delivered at the end of 2000. In regard to the rail improvements – I told the Deputy about the three additional services at peak times – there is not a conclusion time although there is a commencement time.

Can the Minister get that information for me?

Yes, I will.

Thank you.

For rail safety developments, what measures does the Minister see as being needed between now and the time these enhanced works will be completed to ensure the safety of passengers, given the concerns already expressed?

The numbers of passengers on trains are not subject to any particular safety directives or guidelines. We are considering bringing forward, as was explained in the IRMS, guidelines for EU directives on safety, two of which have been pending since 1995. There may be a European debate on the matter. Apparently the matter was raised during a previous Administration and did not generate much debate. There is no EU directive on the matter, nor does any EU member state have any guidelines on train passenger numbers as part of their safety requirements.

It is left to the rail authorities. The railway inspecting officer has been in constant touch with Ted Corcoran, the safety manager of Iarnród Éireann, on the question of overcrowding. I am talking about the Maynooth line here.

I thought the Minister said "Luas". I thought she had revived Luas.

We have – did the Deputy not hear about it? Since he became a president, ordinary things have gone out of his head.

The Minister has not dug the big black hole she promised us.

No. Imagine – I am ahead of schedule—


The Minister is ahead of schedule on something begun by the last Government.

Shouting and roaring will get the Deputies nowhere. I am really surprised that President De Rossa is not involved in the public consultation which has opened.

When will we see the tunnel?


I will put the Deputy in charge of travel on it. I have not finished replying to Deputy Durkan.

The Minister must be allowed finish her reply.

The Minister is being excessively verbose.

If I do not say enough I am hauled up by Deputy Stagg; if I say too much I am hauled up by Deputy Yates.

Mr. Welsby, the railway inspecting officer, has had written and oral communications with Ted Corcoran on the issue of the Maynooth line. Note has been taken of a series of telephoned and written complaints by people who gave their names and addresses. He is taking an ongoing look at it.

Is the Minister aware that Mr. Welsby, the rail safety inspecting officer, put in his report on a train accident that if there was overcrowding on that train there would have been fatalities? Is she aware that it is commonplace to have huge overcrowding on some of these commuter trains, particularly the new Arrow rail carriages? Is she aware that the weight of those is incompatible with the signalling system, so that they often do not register the red and green light system? Will she arrange to have this matter specifically reviewed, that is, the incompatibility of the new Arrow rail carriages and the signalling system? In recent weeks, there was very nearly a very serious incident in this regard.

The Arrows were bought during the Deputy's time in Government. However, I will raise the matter.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.