Irish Rail – a tale of failure

At 22.30 I asked the host if he had any idea when we would be moving. Now two hours late, I was worried about catching my connecting bus at Heuston Station. Most Dublin Bus services cease operation at 23.30. Would we be left stranded on the week before Christmas in a deserted train station, on the coldest night of the year, relying on overbooked taxis. He assured me we would not.

Toilet facilities were vastly impaired on the train. There is one toilet per carriage on Irish Rail trains, but the host told us that as it was not possible to flush the toilet, passengers who were desperate could risk the open sewer that were the toilets. Thankfully I had spent a penny fifteen minutes before the train had stopped so I was spared the horrors of the lavatories. Because all catering services were suspended during Covid there was no water to be found for purchase. I felt great sympathy for the heavily pregnant woman who stood up at 23.00 and asked if anyone had a spare bottle of water.

The announcements had stopped. They were only enraging people. The word ‘shortly’ loses all meaning when you have been waiting for three hours on  a crowded, overheated train when you are parched with the thirst. I felt sorry for the train hosts who clearly were not being informed about what was happening either. People were getting restless. I hoped that the three ‘lads’ who had been drinking would not assault anyone.

At approximately 23.30 we were informed that we had to disembark from the train and we had to reboard the 19.25 train from Cork which had pulled up alongside us. This train (along with he 20.25 train from Cork) were also stuck on the line behind us. If one train stops, all subsequent services stop as well. They hadn’t been trapped quite as long as we had been.

We moved from one train to the other on a makeshift plankway. At about 00.15 – over 3.5 hours since our train had stopped the train inched forward. Could this be it? Were we finally on the move? It appeared so. At approximately 1am we pulled into Heuston Station – four hours later than planned. A harassed looking Irish Rail employee stood at the gate handing out reimbursement forms for the price of the ticket. The four hours lost would go uncompensated of course. Taxis had been called for the hundreds of stranded passengers in the station. With a laser focus I marched to the next available taxi and got underway. I reached by bed at 1.40am – hours later than intended.

The lack of communication from Irish Rail was appalling and unsurprising. This is a very poorly managed rail network. I have written about a similar (if slightly less horrific experience with them last winter – you can read about that here –
That there is no adequate emergency response plan to cover train breakdowns speaks to an incompetent management structure in Irish Rail. Jim Meade has been the CEO of Irish Rail since 2018. I would respectfully suggest that he has questions to answer about how this unsafe, unpleasant, and unhealthy situation was once again allowed to happen.

If you have a car then why would you use public transport is the only conclusion I can draw.

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