NIR Watch Blog…

Just spotted from the address of one of our commenters. It’s a NIR watch site. It’s been going for over a year, chuntering away with fine detail on the issue, so the blogger in question has got the art of blogging down pat. Lots of detail, but perhaps could do with an occasional analysis piece. Definately another one for the Slugger blogroll!


  • Does he mention baglets,beer moves and dud gen floaters?

  • I sat down about six months ago to write an analysis piece on Translink, and bored myself with my own writing.

    I may now go the lowest common denominator route and introduce a competition for the most amusing Photoshopped picture of Ciaran Rogan. 😉

  • Dee Railed

    I was going to post to either or but given there is a link here I thought Iwould avail of slugger given that this goes out to a wide and dare i say it a more influential audience.

    This is a post both on my own behalf and the dozens of Newry passengers travelling to Belfast this morning caught up in the mayhem of mis-information, tomfoolery and down right lies that unfolded today at newry NIR station.

    Basically a tree fell over somewhere between Portadown and Newry and partially blocked the line after a night of (PREDICTED!!!) very strong winds which were likely to cause damage and bring TREES down.Predictably NIR had no contingency plan vis-a-vis clearing the line before the mornings first train. so the first train heading for newry in the morning sailed right in to it blocking one of the lines.

    Thereafter we were informed that a single track service would be in operation which would cause delays. However no train arrived for about an hour and 15 minutes. With great relief the passengers climbed aboard happily awaiting their albeit late trip to Belfast. However the train stubbornly stayed put upon the platform whilst various NIR employees patrolled the train giving various and always contradictory stories as to when or if the train was going to move.

    Next thing we were told that we would be going nowhere but taxis were awaiting in lieu of our train journey. Oh yes we said!! Getting there is getting better to quote the NIR blurb. So into the taxis we were sardined and on our way at last only to be told that we were not going to Belfast but to be dumped off at Portadown. Eventually the dreaming spires of portadown drifted into view and we were dropped off at the train station.

    Now was there a train waiting…I think not so lets wait another twenty minutes. Now it arrives to whoops and hollers akin to the American Ryder cup fans we pile aboard only to be told there is another delay so that passengers could be taken on board from a later post tree incident train due to arrive from Newry. However the said train arrived in Portadown predictably empty as it was the train that everybody had been ejected from.

    The actual reason why the train was delayed was becuse some passengers had to wait considerably longer for their taxi and just hadn’t got to Portadown yet.

    The train started moving and on we trundle on a service that normally is all stops to Lisburn and then express from lisburn. Given the delays that had already mounted up one might have thought that such a scenario would have been the very least that one might have expected but hell no the passengers have not suffered enough.

    lets stop everywhere between Lisburn and Belfast and compound the delay, “sure there’s nobody going to work today” says the fat controller.

    Nearly the end of the story. A weary bunch of passengers trudge dejectedly off at GVS Station nearly 4 (Yes I did say nearly 4 hours!) after arriving at Newry Station for a scheduled service.

    You migh think I am being harsh on NIR but their service was horrendous from Newry consistently throughout July and now we are about to enter the slippy wheel season what with leaves on the line etc

    Anyway thank you NIR from the Newry Commuter Collective.

  • Dee railed

    Nir dont give a flying friar tuck as to what happens south of Portadown…timetable proves it and so does their attitude.4 hrs to go 36 miles…not laughing and i am bovvered.

    Newry will fight and Newry will be right.

  • Crataegus

    I am convinced that there is absolutely no commitment in Translink to maintain and improve the rail network. They have a bus orientated strategy and that is the height of it.

    It would be better if the rail service were run by a separate company, which because of the almost total neglect can also run connecting bus services independent from Translink.

    There is also a problem in relation to the Planning Service and the lack of integration of a rail network into any future development plans or using existing provision to its full. For rail networks to work you need to plan for high density office development coupled with carparking etc etc at key stations. It won’t work by accident!.

  • Yer Woman

    Is there some sort of law that prevents other transport companies – be it Bus or Rail – from starting up to take advantage of the hundreds of thousands of disgruntled Translink users?

    I’m currently at the mercy of the Translink metro service on the Stranmillis Road. I’d normally walk to work every day (20 mins if you cut through Botanic Gardens) but an ongoing leg injury requires me to avail of the metro “service” that stops right outside my house.

    Every day, without fail, the bus is late by some 20 minutes, the worst this week being 1 hr.
    But some of the blame for these delays has to be laid on the legions of south Belfast yummie mummies who chose to leave their little darlings to school in mammoth 4×4 when their children could rightly walk the 30 or so minutes it would take to get to their school gates.

  • Dee Railed

    Yer Woman,

    i dont claim to be a transport expert but there are regulations restricting other transport operaters from operating on inner city routes such as stranmillis although DRD are i think open to suggestions on this at the moment.

    The only problem is that in GB such de-regulation of services had a “mixed” result. Cherrypicking of services and multiple buses from different companies arriving at the same time etc etc.

    Maybe the only thing required is that translink actually does what is says on the tin and provide regular services to a published timetable.

    There has recently been a greater amount of deregulation on the longer bus routes from the sticks in to the city which i think will be picking up even further in the near future. Both Chambers and Rooneys have obtained licences to augment the ulsterbus schedules.

    So there will be an alternative for the North West (and others i think) and for Newry now that these private operators are licensed for certain routes.

    However the train is still the best way to get from A to B and translink havent quite grasped this. i dont know whether its all down to translink or drd but NIR is a shoddy operation and if one was cynical you might believe that it was deliberate.

    Not going to comment on the “Yummie Mummies” though as i dont fancy being run over by a 4×4 landrover freelander…………….

  • GavBelfast

    There won’t be a proper rail service unless and until NIR is not allied to Ulsterbus.

    That the money apparently secured to guarantee the future of the Belfast – Londonderry / Portrush routes has not actually been spent onn same and a ‘final’ decision on the lines north of Balymena and Whitehead won’t happen (why?) until 2009 (why?) is eveidence of this.

  • Dee Railed

    “Translink is working on an outline ‘vision 2020’ with Irish Rail for a high speed rail service to Dublin with departures every hour with a 90 minute non stop journey time”

    Read it and weep.They are planning for an “Outline” upgrade for 2020 I cant wait. Actually I will have to wait which is ironic. Waiting is something they excel at.(The only Thing?)

    Signalling problems today by the way (Again!) and delays on the enterprise but what’s new.

  • Crataegus

    I would take it all the assets of NIR are owned by Translink, I was wondering what the portfolio would contain if it were to be sold off? It is probably the only realistic way to go. I like many others have given up on Translink.

    I used to travel to Dublin by train, wouldn’t even give it a thought now. First train is too late for getting to Dublin for business and I have been on far too many trains that have been late and NO having taxis arranged in Belfast late at night just isn’t good enough. I now either drive or get the bus. I gave up on the train yet I would like to use them as they give the opportunity to prepare for whatever meetings.

  • Dee Railed

    isnt it funny that planning service have given permission for houses to be built nearly all the way down the line between Belfast and Portadown. Gee wizz we wouldnt want to be leaving any wriggle room for a third line would we? nah just block the existing lines in and be done with it.

  • Crataegus

    Dee Railed

    Better than that take South Antrim new houses all the way between Belfast and Carrick any new halts or making it easier to get to existing, or even additional car parking; not a chance. Or what about a stop near the Abbey centre or keeping the growing population in Crumlin and Glenavy connected using existing lines? It is an utter disgrace.

    Meanwhile whilst they quibble about the rail line between Whitehead and Larne they have approved I think 29million for one extra lane on the M2 between Sandyknowles and Shore Road suppose it is in part to take all the commuters from Larne.

    And then there is Aldergrove Airport with a railway line running along the back and no connection. Someone should visit the over crowded, crap Dublin Airport and ask what do we need to do to compete. New City Air port railway line but where is the station? It is utterly unbelievable. Transport services of a tin pot dictatorship.

  • slug

    Agree with the above suggestions.

    Also they need to get the light rail line out the newtownards road to comber up and running as this is a busy commuter line; the old railway line has been preserved so this is doable.

    They need to double track the dargan bridge to allow greater frequency in both directions and to double track the section to Antrim to allow greater frequency in the trains to Ballymena.

    These “passing points” not only reduce frequency but mean that if a northbound train is delayed then that delays the southbound train. In fact it should be dualled all the way up to Coleraine and speeds should be much better.

    They need to invest in more trains and in better track with more speed.

    They need to make a lot of the stations more pleasant and uder friendly with better information on the trains.

    They should have a number of high-speed intercity through trains each day from Derry to Dublin, calling in at Coleraine, Ballymena, Belfast along the way.

  • Dee Railed

    I thought this particular item would have inspired more debate. it probably show up the contributers on here for the car drivers that they are. The public transport system in this area really does sadden me and the ineptness of Translink beggars belief.

  • slug

    Dee Railed

    I agree with you. I sometimes commute using NIR on the Antrim line and the lack of frequency is appalling.

    Did you know that there is NO train in the morning toward Belfast from Ballymeny between 7:30am and 9:10am each day? Thats why I made the points re dual-tracking. THe track on this line is single-track all the way from Newtownabbey. 🙁

  • slug

    Spelling check – I mean “from Ballymena”.

    The lack of frequency between Ballymena and Belfast is due to the track having low capacity. This investment is needed to convert to dual track so that (a) trains don’t have to waste time waiting at passing points for 15 minutes to allow oncoming trains to get past (b) trains going in one direction don’t get affected by delays in the opposite direction (c) the frequency of trains in both directions can be increased.

    Oh and if you miss your train home to Ballymena at 6:30pm leaving Beffast the next one isn’t till well after 8pm. Hows that for inconvenience if you need to be flexible in how late you work?

  • Dee Railed

    there is no service from Newry between 7.10 and 8.48……Do I need to spell out how bad that is?

    I believe people go to work around that time…sighs

  • slug

    Thats appalling. At that time of the morning there should at the least be one every 30 minutes or so leaving places like Newry and Ballymena as people go to work.

  • slug

    ..and in Newry they don’t have the excuse of single tracking.

  • Dee Railed

    The timetable is completely arbitrary. 6.50 7.10 8.48 wtf!!! Who came up with that one.

    The conspiracy theorist within me probably has it sussed. they are trying to limit the amount of customers because the car-park has limited capacity (in other words its always full before 8.48 unless you know about the two secret spaces not telling!!)and therefore if they provided a better service there would be nowhere for their customers to park.

    Welcome to the mad mad world of NIR.

  • slug

    Nice theory but Ballymena experience disproves it – in Ballymena they have recently (to their credit) built a nice big park-and-ride car park with lots of capacity right by the track. But snag is that they STILL provide such a bad service that it is never more than quarter full….

  • Crataegus

    I once had a look at NIR, but briefly and in a casual sort of way, but it struck me that with the right strategy you could generate a very large amount of money. It is something that I may have another look at if I have a lot of free time. I can’t say much because it is a business idea, but it strikes me that the problems relate to lack of imagination, bad management and total lack of commitment.

    I think NIR should run as a totally separate company under separate ownership. There is no future under the current regime.

  • slug

    Indeed – lack of commitment.

    If you think of the £xxx millions that are being spent on roads here, big projects like Westlink using PFI schemes, why has nobody at NIR thought in terms of doing a few big projects using PFI? There are plenty of good uses of investment, none of them happening. If NIR had commitment they would be looking into such ideas. There is no doubt that NIRs basic routes stretch along our main population corridors and the service is greatly underused relative to potential.

  • Dee Railed

    In a perfect world there would be quiet air conditioned trains with friendly staff ( I know most are friendly but those that aren’t are a disgrace)but its not going to happen because NIR is regarded as an embarrassement by translink managed by the bus obsessed.

    “lack of imagination, bad management and total lack of commitment”…….couldn’t agree more.

    It really could be better. Some weeks I really could scream at the service.

    I was once told by a ticket inspector that i was too late (although 4 mins early) and the train had gone. I said I know for a fact that the train is still there and that no train in the history of NIR has ever gone early. He said there would be another one along in two hours. I just walked past the lying twat and what would you know I got the train. i have a substantial portfolio of incidences like that……….

  • Dee Railed

    They have a vegetation management policy….sides have finally split………….

    Translink Determined to Grip Slippy Problem
    Following recent adverse weather conditions, Translink engineers have re-doubled efforts to combat the elements in order to keep rail services on the move and on time.

    High winds and heavy rain have accelerated levels of autumn leaf fall onto the rail lines. When crushed as trains travel over the track, a Teflon-like substance or ‘mulch’ forms, causing poor adhesion between train wheels and the railway line, which ultimately causes trains to be delayed.

    “Unfortunately, due to the seasonal weather conditions and levels of leaf fall at this time of year, poor adhesion is a universal problem faced by rail networks across the UK and further afield in Europe,” explained Translink Infrastructure and Property Executive, Clive Bradberry. “It’s also a constant running battle, as the residue often reforms as quickly as it is cleared.

    “The coating causes the same sort of problems black ice causes for cars, and it can prove to be difficult to remove. Essentially it causes ‘wheelslip’ which in turn makes it difficult to get trains moving and keep moving, or to slow down and stop. Just like driving on icy roads, train drivers apply defensive driving techniques, which invariably mean reduced speeds of operation and increased braking distance allowances. As a result it is difficult to keep trains operating to the timetable during the leaf fall season.

    “Over the past number of years we have identified the blackspots and will be using a combination of specialised equipment and products to keep trains and passengers moving safely this autumn.

    “We will be closely monitoring the entire rail network, indeed our specialist cleaning machine which uses high pressure water jets to clean away the leaf residue is travelling along the tracks every night.

    “We will also be using a new gel and grit compound specifically developed to address this issue which is applied by mobile squads at known trouble spots and other areas as problems arise. Our ultimate goal is to ensure safety and punctuality for our passengers.

    “In addition, all 23 of our new C3K trains feature automatic sanding devices and wheel slip protection. Like the traction control systems available on many modern cars, these ‘smart sanders’ actually detect wheel slip and automatically release sand to help traction. Wheel slip protection has also been fitted on Enterprise trains, and driver operated sanders, which are the rail equivalent to miniature gritting lorries are fitted to all remaining class 450 trains.

    Clive went on to explain that cold weather brought other difficulties.

    “To combat the problem of points freezing at track junctions we have fitted sensors to key points on our tracks, which trigger warming devices when the temperature is about to reach freezing – preventing the points sticking and keeping the network moving.“

    Other measures implemented by Translink include a year-round programme of vegetation management to minimise leaf fall onto tracks.