Cyclist.ie made a submission today in regard to the consultation process associated with the all island Strategic Rail Review. You can read the consultation documents here.
And you can read the submission of Cyclist.ie and An Taisce in the following text.
The first public commuter line in Ireland, from Dublin to Dun Laoghaire, was launched in 1834 – and the lines stretched out to Belfast, Cork and Galway over the following decades. The point here is that the rail corridors and infrastructure put in place back then have shaped development and settlement patterns for almost two centuries. When planning the future of rail on the island of Ireland we need to have similar timelines in mind, and be thinking about what type of transportation system and settlement patterns we want to end up with, not just in 2050 but in 2100 and 2200. This is the opportunity to shape that future.
Our current rail “system” is almost exclusively a set of radial lines (with much of it single track) running to and from Dublin, with minimal direct inter-connectivity between towns and cities outside of the capital. This needs to change completely if we are to arrive at a transport network and system – and future settlement pattern – which is in line with our requirement to decarbonise our entire transport system (and economy and society by 2050) as per the Paris Agreement and our own brand new Climate Action Plan. There needs to be far greater recognition of the shaping effect of our transport infrastructure on where development ends up taking place. Additionally, we note the over-representation in the road traffic collision statistics of heavy goods vehicles in serious and fatal collisions (and particularly those involving vulnerable road users). The future of freight movement in Ireland needs to acknowledge this fact, and to maximise the movement of goods by rail, and not on roads with the associated road carnage that ensues.
Therefore, the priority over the coming decades but starting now needs to be around connecting our regional cities with high quality rail infrastructure and services and then prioritising transit oriented development – i.e. development of almost every type close to rail stations (in line with the 15 Minute City / Town concept). There needs to be high quality, high capacity, direct and resilient connections from Dublin to Wexford/Rosslare (thinking ahead to take into account coastal erosion patterns) and on to Waterford and on to Cork and to Limerick and to Galway and to Sligo and on to Derry and then Belfast and back to Dublin. The North West of the island is severely lacking in high quality rail transport and there is no better time than now to rectify this problem – as against investing in road based options which will, inevitably, stimulate dispersed car-based development patterns and car trips (and hence higher energy use, emissions and use of raw materials).
The mainline train lines (Dublin to Cork, Galway and Belfast) should be upgraded to electric. Ireland is anomalous in Europe in mainline services being all diesel. There are local air quality issues at stake here as well as carbon emissions.
The other point we wish to stress in this submission is the need to think about inter-modal journeys, and low / zero carbon trips. The catchment area of a train station when considering people cycling to it is approximately 9 times the area of the catchment area of the station for those walking to it (given that average cycling speeds are approximately 3 times those of average walking speeds). Therefore, there needs to be a full acknowledgement of the need to provide for bike / rail journeys when planning investment in the future of rail. Of most concern here is the following:
– The design of safe and attractive cycle routes to every train station and stop in the country, and this must include making areas close to stations properly permeable and well connected for those walking and cycling to stations (‘filtered permeability’ as it is called).
– The need for high quality, safe and secure bicycle parking at every train station / stop in the country. In cities, there needs to be a quantum leap in ambition and investment priority so as to provide high capacity / high quality infrastructure such as we see in cities such as Utrecht, Malmö and Munster (in Germany). See for example the facilities in Utrecht in this video:
– The carriage of bikes on all trains needs to be greatly improved – at a minimum to match proposed EU levels of 8 bikes per train (as per this ECF article).
Bicycle spaces on trains must be easy to use and suitable for a variety of bike types, including bicycles loaded with pannier bags (so as to nurture a strong cycle tourism culture), or even cargo bikes. Cyclists who do not have good upper body strength (e.g. most women), find it hard to use some of the spaces on the existing Irish rail fleet. Furthermore, the bicycle compartment should be visibly indicated on the rolling stock itself – many logos on carriage doors showing the bicycle spaces are much too small. Some of the intercity trains in Ireland now have fine big logos which is welcome, and such logos should be placed on all trains. Such a simple and inexpensive change would make life a lot simpler for people with bicycles trying to board trains.
– Additionally, there needs to be signs on the platforms showing where cyclists should wait (see Bath Spa station in the UK for example). Note that high-speed trains often stop only for a few minutes. To properly manage the timely loading of bicycles and avoid possible delays, customers need to know which section of the platform their coach is going to halt. They should be guided by diagrams, either paper (e.g. Deutsche Bahn) or electronic (e.g. SNCF), which clearly indicate where the coaches are going to stop. In addition, platform voice announcements should be given before the arrival of the train.
As above, the north west quadrant of the country is severely depleted in regard to rail infrastructure. Similarly West Cork has a very large and long gap without any rail infrastructure.
Furthermore, it is not wise to lift unused lines such as Waterford to Rosslare for conversion to greenways, when the first priority needs to be the reinstatement of high quality rail links. The closures were to a large extent due to very poor service frequency and timing from Irish Rail. This needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Lines also need to be made available to other operators if this improves services.
In addition, the current level of service on the Dublin to Rosslare line is extremely poor and results in an anomalously low modal share for train in this corridor. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of connectivity between the ferry services to and from Rosslare and the train services. This means that people who want to travel without a car on these ferry services effectively cannot do so.
We recommend strongly that a direct curve is provided towards Dublin at Ballybrophy to make the services on the Nenagh line connect to Dublin. The current track layout there does not promote a fast service.
Dr. Damien Ó Tuama
National Cycling Coordinator, Cyclist.ie http://cyclist.ie/ and An Taisce https://www.antaisce.org/
Vice-President, European Cyclists’ Federation (2016 – 2021) https://ecf.com/
The Tailors’ Hall
Dublin D08 X2A3