THE new fleet of trains operating on the Larne railway line has “surpassed all expectations” in terms of performance, according to Translink.
Six months after the new Class 4000 rolling stock was first brought into service on the Larne line, the rail provider told the Larne Times that the trains have resulted in a more reliable, modern and passenger-friendly service.
And perhaps most importantly, the introduction of the new trains has brought about in a slight increase in passenger numbers - something which is crucial if planned cuts to services between Larne and Whitehead are to be avoided.
For many years, Larne line passengers had to put up with ageing, leaky and draughty Class 450 rolling stock while passengers elsewhere on the network had the relative luxury of CAF 3000 trains, which were introduced in 2005.
But now, local rail users are served exclusively by the new Class 4000 trains, alongside the existing fleet of CAF 3000 trains.
Lynda Shannon, communications manager for Translink said the new trains were performing “exceptionally well” and described them as “much more appealing” to rail users than the old Class 450 trains, which have now been almost completely phased out of the Larne line.
“A total of 20 new Class 4000 trains have been purchased, nine of which are now up and running on the Larne line,” she added.
“We realise that the East Antrim community felt overlooked for a number of years, but these new trains, complemented by the CAF 3000 stock, provide a much better quality of service in terms of performance, punctuality and passenger comfort.
“The new trains are more fuel efficient, have more seats, are all fitted with CCTV for the protection of passengers and staff, and are also kitted out with wi-fi capability. We want to retrofit our CAF 3000 trains with wi-fi to ensure continuity between all our services.
“We have had great feedback from passengers on the Larne line since these new trains were introduced in October and there has been a three per cent growth in passenger numbers on the line.
“This is certainly a good start, but we need to see significantly more growth, particularly on the Larne to Whitehead stretch of the line.”
As reported in the Times, Translink has proposed cutting the number of early-morning trains to Belfast from Larne on a daily basis, along with a reduction in the Larne-Whitehead service, unless there is an increase in passenger numbers.
Translink route manager, Frank Moore said travelling on the train represented “good value for money” for passengers at a time when the price of fuel was continuing to rise.
“The Larne line is one of the best served in Northern Ireland in terms of park and ride facilities, so the train is an appealing choice for many commuters.
“We are dedicated to improving the service on the Larne line, and these new trains are one just part of a bigger plan. We have already carried out a number of platform extensions along the line, and this summer we will begin an extension programme at Larne Harbour,” he added.
Lobbying body the Larne Line Passenger Group has set up a petition for two additional express services to run between Larne Harbour to Great Victoria Street.
The group is urging East Antrim residents to support its campaign by accessing the website www.llpg.org.uk and entering its discussion forum, by emailing email@example.com with the person’s full name and town they travel from, or on its Facebook page.