Rail user group concerned about DART overcrowding

Train travellers group responds to Irish Rail plans to run shorter off-peak trains

File photograph of DART at Tara Street in Dublin. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

File photograph of DART at Tara Street in Dublin. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Mon, Sep 9, 2013, 20:50

Rail Users Ireland (RUI), a representative body for train travellers, has said they are concerned that running shorter DART trains during off-peak hours may lead to overcrowding.

“On paper we’ve have no formal objection what they are doing,” RUI spokesman, Mark Gleeson, said while adding that it’s appropriate for the train length to suit the number of passengers it carries.

However, he argued that there’s a very high probability people will have to stand during off-peak hours.

“When you’re travelling off peak, everyone should get a seat,” he said. “We’ve no problem running short trains as long as everybody gets a seat. I do fear at off-peak it’s going to get uncomfortable”.

He added that the measures could “dissuade the very passengers” Irish rail needs to carry, people who only use the train during off-peak hours because it’s a “scrum” or “too cramped” during rush hours.

In light of the events Mr Gleeson said it was also troubling that Irish Rail’s contract with the National Transport Authority (NTA) only specifies the number of trains it has to run and not minimum capacity levels.

The NTA contract replaced a memorandum of understanding, which included capacity specifications, between the department of Transport and the company, according to Mr Gleeson.

“We’re being a bit let down by the National Transport Authority on this,” he said.

According to the RUI some 10 DART carriages have already been taken out of circulation and are now up for sale.

“The reality is that since they have taken those 10 carriages there’s little room to take out more,” he said. “It’s just very much in contrast to central Europe [where you]never see the level of overcrowding we have in Dublin”.

Meanwhile Fianna Fáil spokesman on transport, Timmy Dooley, commended Irish Rail for taking the reduction of energy costs so seriously.

However, he felt a review period should be included to ensure “the changes are not made at the expense of customer service”.

“If the quality of service was reduced for customers then it may impact negatively on passenger numbers which would negate the positive impacts of the reduction in DART carriages,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis said Irish Rail needs to explain the “logic” of how the multi-million savings will be made through reduced carriage numbers and that he would be “wary” of the changes.

“I’d have a gut feeling that it would be used later on to say passenger numbers are down,” he said while adding that full, or overcrowded carriages, could drive away passengers.

“The DART is doing very, very well and the numbers are huge, and what’s going to happen in a case where you have less facilities?” he asked. “It might be damaging something that’s generating revenue”.

The Dublin northwest TD also feared that reducing the number of carriages would only be the start, saying that lengthening times between train journeys could follow.

He added that Irish Rail should also be looking at increasing revenue from the DART service by running more trains later at night.

“As the main city in the country it doesn’t make sense to do away with the night services,” he said.