Written Answers. - Rail Services.

David Stanton

Question:

140 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport his plans to deal with the overcrowding on mainline rail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2620/03]

I am very much aware of the problem of crowding on our railway network, particularly at peak periods and am conscious of the discomfort and inconvenience this causes to passengers. Iarnród Éireann has a statutory responsibility for ensuring the safety of its passengers. It is therefore a matter for the company to satisfy itself that the number of passengers being carried in any train or carriage does not compromise overall passenger safety.

The railway inspectorate of my Department continually monitors developments in regard to crowding on trains and have stressed to Iarnród Éireann the importance of keeping this matter under review. I am advised that consultants for Iarnród Éireann expect to finalise their independent review of its crowding management strategy on inter-city services by the end of March. In addition, I am advised by Iarnród Éireann that it plans to introduce a reservation system later this year, allowing pre-booking on key peak services.

The Railway Safety Bill, which is on Second Stage in this House, will require all railway undertakings to implement a formal safety management system and to describe that system in a document called a safety case. The Bill will require a railway undertaking to identify in its safety case all issues impacting on the safety of its operations. Such issues would include its strategy for managing crowding of trains. The Railway Safety Commission, to be established under the Bill, will need to be satisfied that the safety case is adequate to ensure the safety of passengers.
Growth in passenger numbers has contributed to the current crowding difficulties on inter-city and suburban services. Data provided by Iarnród Éireann show that since 1994 passenger numbers on inter-city services have increased from 7.8 million to an estimated 11.3 million in 2002, a 45% increase. To address the capacity problems arising from this passenger growth, significant funding has been, and continues to be, made available to Iarnród Éireann for investment to improve the safety of the network, increase the passenger capacity of the system and improve the quality, reliability and speed of services. Iarnród Éireann has ordered 67 new inter-city carriages and these will begin to enter service in 2005. In addition, the entry into service later this year of 80 diesel railcars, purchased for use on outer suburban routes, will release Mark III carriages from those suburban routes for use on inter-city services. These new railcars will reduce the number of commuting passengers using key inter-city trains and will also be available to supplement inter-city rolling stock on Sundays. The ongoing delivery of new rolling stock will increase the available capacity to deal with peak periods and should help to alleviate the current crowding difficulties.