Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
Ireland Could Lose Intercity Rail Service, Report Warns
Years of operating losses at Ireland’s national railroad, Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail, or IE), have led to the point where without a major infusion of cash from the national government, the island nation could lose almost all of its intercity rail service, a report from Irish Rail and Ireland’s National Transport Authority warns.
As reported in Global Rail News, IE lost a total of 150 million euros ($159.5 million U.S.) on passenger service from 2007 to 2015, even after realizing 76 million euros ($80.8 million U.S.) in savings over the same period, and is on track to lose an additional 11 million euros ($11.7 million U.S.) this year.
According to the agencies’ “Rail Review 2016 Report,” “the solvency of the company remains a major concern due to the accumulated losses and the deterioration of shareholder funds. The company cannot incur further losses as it will become insolvent,” adding that underinvestment in rolling stock and infrastructure has created safety and commercial risks.
Absent additional state funding to cover past losses, maintain current levels of service and perform needed maintenance, the report states, IE would have to shrink to the point where it operated only commuter services in Dublin and Cork, DART local service in Dublin, and intercity lines connecting Belfast, Cork, Dublin and Limerick. The total additional amount needed to maintain current operations is 103 million euros ($109.5 million U.S.) a year through 2021, and an additional 41.7 million euros ($44.3 million U.S.) a year would be required through 2019 to cover accumulated losses and balance Irish Rail’s books.
The report does not recommend a shutdown of most of Irish Rail and also notes that the railroad could be returned to solvency through a mix of service cutbacks and additional cash from the government. David Franks, IE chief executive, did encourage anyone interested in Ireland’s future transportation needs to weigh in during the public consultation period that began with the report’s Nov. 21 release.
Dublin Gets New Crosstown Rail Line
Meanwhile, in the Irish capital, IE launched a new cross-city passenger rail service on the same day the dire financial report was released, the International Railway Journal reports.
The new service runs from southwest Dublin to north Kildare via the city center using an upgraded existing rail line that had been used for freight and empty passenger train movements. The 13.9 million-euro ($14.8 million U.S.) project rehabilitated a 692-meter (0.43-mile) tunnel, rebuilt two of the nine stations along the line and upgraded its signaling. Trains will run from Newbridge to Grand Canal Dock via Hazelhatch, Parkwest, Drumcondra (rebuilt), Connolly, Tara Street (rebuilt) and Pearse. Trains will skip Heuston, but passengers can make connections with intercity service at Newbridge or Hazelhatch.
The initial service consists of 10 trains during the weekday morning peak and 14 during the weekday evening peak. IE plans to expand the service to include off-peak and weekend trains.
Taiwan Completes Its First Tramcar
The new light-rail line currently under construction in New Taipei in northern Taiwan will feature a first for the island nation: domestically built tramcars.
The first of the new tramcars was formally unveiled on Nov. 16 at the manufacturing plant in Hsinchu County, The China Post reports. New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu declared himself pleased with the tram’s stylishness and functionality at the presentation ceremony.
The tram, dubbed “Warrior,” is the first of 15 being produced by a joint venture between the Taiwan Rolling Stock Company and Voith Engineering Services of Germany. Chu expressed hope that the creation of a domestic tramcar industry on Taiwan would help speed the completion of the LRT line in his city’s Tamsui District, boost economic output and jobs, and contribute to the further development of an LRT industry on the island.
The cars are made of stainless steel and steel designed to withstand Tamsui’s coastal weather. The five-compartment articulated trams carry 295 passengers each and have a top operating speed of 70 km/h (43.5 mph). The entire 15-car order is scheduled to be complete by August of next year.
Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.
Next City contributor Sandy Smith is an associate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.