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Friday 23 February 2018

Irish Rail plans move to electric/hybrid fleet

David Franks, chief executive of Iarnród Éireann, at Connolly Station. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
David Franks, chief executive of Iarnród Éireann, at Connolly Station. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Irish Rail is planning to place its last order for diesel trains before moving to an all-electric and hybrid fleet, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Tenders to be published in the coming weeks will call for companies to refurbish existing diesel trains to provide an additional 17,000 trips a day, with a further order of 41 new rail cars due to be placed next year. The total cost is estimated at €108m.

After that, chief executive David Franks said, the semi-State planned to move to an all-electric and hybrid fleet.

"We're driving towards an emission-free railway and electric is at the heart of that," he said. "These short-term solutions are adding to what we already have. But as you start thinking about replacement trains, the future really is electric and not diesel."

The company expects to place the first orders for electric or hybrid trains between now and 2020, as part of an expansion of the Dart network. But he said he would prefer to extend the network first into Maynooth in Kildare instead of Balbriggan in north Dublin as proposed by the Government.

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Mr Franks said it was "more difficult" to electrify the line to Balbriggan because it shared track space with mainline services to Belfast.

"We're arguing (with the National Transport Authority) that Balbriggan would be great, but Maynooth would be better," he said.

"We're really under pressure in terms of capacity (in Maynooth). We've been talking to the National Transport Authority on all these issues. Balbriggan will be part of the expanded Dart network. In terms of priorities, our suggestion is Maynooth would be more sensible."

The cost of upgrading Maynooth would be €350m, which includes re-signalling works and elimination of level crossings. The works to Balbriggan would cost €170m.

The company has set out a fleet strategy out to 2040 which includes the replacement of the existing Dart fleet, in place since 1984, and replacement of the Belfast Enterprise fleet.

It also wants to install more efficient engines in the existing fleet, at a cost of €40m, with the costs to be repaid over five years in fuel savings. A gradual move from diesel engines to electric and diesel hybrid is planned out to 2040, at a total cost of €1.8bn.

Mr Franks said hybrid technology was useful as trains could run under electric power, but in cases where it would be too costly to erect overhead wires, they could switch to a diesel engine for short bursts.

A second advantage was that these hybrids could continue into the outer commuter belt where the line was not electrified, he added.

Electrifying Dublin-Belfast and Dublin-Cork was also planned, which would reduce journey times.

Irish Independent

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