Packed carriages, late trains: normal service resumes over Malahide viaduct


The first train to cross the reopened Malahide rail viaduct was limited to a top speed of 25mph, writes SHANE HEGARTY

THE TRAINS were late. When they arrived, they crawled along the track. And the aisles were packed with people who couldn’t get a seat. Normal service, then, had resumed on the Belfast-Dublin line.

It had been three months since the Malahide viaduct slumped into the estuary below, but it was two weeks ahead of the original estimate for when it would be repaired, leading to much joking among commuters about this being the first time Iarnród Éireann had ever been early.

The first commuter trains to cross this part of the track did so gingerly, limited to a top speed of 25mph. The 6.04am contained what one passenger described as the “guinea pigs”: those first commuters to test the track’s strength.

On the 7.41am, though, people were more concerned about delays. Having sat for a while at Skerries, with the driver making occasional but almost inaudible announcements, the train eventually moved on towards Malahide. As it approached the viaduct most passengers decided not to interrupt their snooze. No one was gripping their arm rests. No one donned water wings.

“I wasn’t worried about getting the train this morning,” said Leanna Gannon, a TCD student taking the train from Skerries. “Although, it wasn’t the first train. My sister took the first train and I haven’t heard anything from her yet, so I presume everything is fine.”

Was it not a bad sign that she hadn’t yet heard from her? “Oh, yes. I suppose so . . .” she laughed.

Leanna had been taking one of the alternative bus services since August, which on some mornings meant a 90-minute journey from corner of north Co Dublin to the city centre.

However, some commuters had actually preferred the replacement services. Passengers from Drogheda, Balbriggan, Rush, Lusk and Donabate found that they were getting into Dublin quicker and had a seat all the way. Many had even lobbied Dublin Bus and local politicians for a continuation of services that for other commuters, such as those in Skerries, were a great inconvenience.

“The bus was great,” said passenger Gary Jenkins, leaning against a door on the full train yesterday morning. “It went through the Port Tunnel and I got a seat. I would have preferred to stay on the bus but I asked and they weren’t running them from Balbriggan this week.”

However, it was noticeable that there were fewer than normal passengers at the Rush/Lusk and Donabate stops, with some clearly having stayed with the 33X and 33D services that have been scaled back but continue to run.

While most remained unmoved, a few train passengers peered out the rain-streaked window as the train finally crossed the viaduct. It is a little wider than it was before the collapse, but otherwise the journey was as banal as it had been until August. There were no creaks, no jolts. After that, the train sped up and zipped into the city where the passengers disembarked.

Meanwhile, the 33X disgorged passengers on to George’s Quay. These were people for whom the original hassle of the broken train line had been replaced by a service which, in some cases, picked up and dropped them almost at their front doors.

“I thought it would be a nightmare at first,” said Sharon Behan, who had commuted from Lusk. “It’s much better than I thought. Some days the traffic is crazy, but it stops right outside my estate.”