A PROGRESS report from International Risk Management Services commissioned by the Irish Department of Public Enterprise chides Iarnród éireann for not moving quickly enough to implement changes to improve safety. While the dire predictions of a report by the same consultants published in November 1998 (RG 12.98 p825) have not come true, IRMS says only four of the 33 defects which it detailed previously have been fully rectified. The consultants acknowledge that IE has done a great deal to reduce risks in the last year, but find that ’a number of further unreasonable risks have been identified which require to be addressed and mitigated immediately.’

Among the problems cited were: no follow-up examination of some serious defects identified in the earlier audit, a section of track where decayed and splitting timber sleepers threatened a derailment, and a branch line with ’abysmal ballast conditions’. The report also criticises delay in implementing mini-CTC, allowing ’potentially unsafe conditions to arise’, poor fire safety in key equipment rooms and no single person in charge of fire safety, no progress in introducing safety bays at level crossings, and gangers patrolling the track who ’continue never to file a weekly report’.

The consultants also raise questions about the laying of 1800 km of optic fibre cables along the IE network. The cable had been laid too close to the track in places, damaging the stability of embankments and cuttings.

IE is now one year into a Iú430m safety investment programme stretching to 2003, triggered by the previous report. Around Iú100m has been spent so far, and IE says Iú204m is being spent on track and track maintenance, with level crossings receiving Iú88m, structures Iú32m and safety management systems Iú51m. This will go some way towards rectifying the problems of long-term neglect which have plagued IE for years.

Publication of the report was overshadowed by the resignation on March 6 of Brian Joyce, Chairman of transport holding company CIE for the past five years. He said he was quitting not because of the safety report but in protest against interference in the day-to-day running of the company by Public Enterprise Minister Mary O’Rourke. A major row ensued, much of it centred on the costs of Luas, Dublin’s planned light rail project, which Joyce said may cost four to five times the original estimate but would only carry 10% of peak-hour passengers into the city centre. The huge cost increase stems partly from plans to put sections of the route in tunnel rather than on street.

HIE planned to begin limited services on the DART extension to Greystones by the end of March, with full services to Malahide and Greystones starting during the summer when the first 10 of 26 new EMU cars are available. Meanwhile IE is tendering for two complete trainsets for Dublin - Cork inter-city services.