‘Second class’ response to rail passenger growth

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TRANSLINK is “missing a marketing trick” by failing to accommodate increasing passenger numbers on the Belfast to Larne railway line, according to East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson.

Mr. Dickson has criticised what he described as a “second class service” on the route following complaints by commuters of overcrowding and unreliability.

He indicated an “upsurge” in passenger numbers following commencement of roadworks on the A2 at Greenisland.

Mr Dickson said: “Commuters have since complained that train services to Belfast are overcrowded and often unreliable. I am extremely disappointed with the service provided so far.

“Translink has been well aware of the impending major roadworks for years; however their response to the increase in passenger numbers has been poor.

“I have been inundated by upset constituents telling me of overcrowded carriages during the morning rush hour. This overcrowding has led to the conductor being unable to move through the carriage, thus making him unable to sell tickets to commuters. This has had the knock-on effect of causing further delay for passengers as they have to queue a second time once they have arrived at their destination to buy a valid ticket.

“Furthermore, delays have been commonplace, with cancellations also occurring. I have asked Translink to review the punctuality on their morning services to Belfast and also to immediately introduce more carriages to these trains to facilitate the greater passenger numbers which will become evident as the roadworks on the A2 continue.

“These are some of the several issues currently evident on the Larne line service. I will be seeking an answer from Translink on these and other issues, such as the imbalance of new trains being used on other lines.

“I am determined to take Translink to task to offer the constituents of East Antrim the best possible train service, which will be badly needed as the A2 road works begin to seriously affect commuters.”

Responding to Mr. Dickson’s comments, a spokesperson for Translink said: “We have been in contact with Mr Dickson regarding his comments and queries and are have been analysing train running times on the Larne line.

“Punctuality and reliability levels for services on the line have continued to improve since the introduction of our fleet of new Class 4000 trains in 2011/12. Over the past 26-week period, Translink NI Railways has recorded punctuality levels of 98.5 per cent and reliability levels of 99.9 per cent for services on the Larne line.

“As of Sunday, March 24, we made some minor adjustments to the timetable to facilitate passengers wishing to travel onwards to Dublin on the 06.50 Enterprise service from Central Station (Monday-Saturday).

“As the Larne line is extremely popular with commuters, some services have been carrying 200 seated passengers and up to 100 standing passengers between Carrickfergus and Belfast. Our trains are capable of comfortably carrying 200 seated and 200 standing.

“We will continue to monitor passenger numbers on all morning and afternoon services and anticipate that we will be in a position to introduce some six carriage sets on selected services when passenger numbers require.”