New rail carriages won't be delivered until mid-2022 due to Covid delays

New rail carriages won't be delivered until mid-2022 due to Covid delays

The first of the new carriages are unlikely to be delivered until mid-2022 however, a delay “mainly related to the Covid-19 pandemic” according to Irish Rail. File photo: Larry Cummins

Irish Rail is to spend €150m on the purchase and commissioning of 41 new inter-city rail carriages, a cost of €3.65m, per unit.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) said that the figure is made up of purchase costs of €146.7m, with the remainder covering management and other project costs.

Some €56.2m has been spent on the carriages to date, with an additional €2m to be paid to the vendor before the end of 2021. A further €84.2m will follow in 2022, with the final tranche to be paid in 2023.

The new carriages are intended to increase capacity on the Dublin-Belfast, Maynooth/M3 Parkway and Kildare lines.

The first carriage is unlikely to be delivered until mid-2022 however, a delay “mainly related to the Covid-19 pandemic” according to Irish Rail.

Local Social Democrats TD for Kildare Catherine Murphy expressed her concern that the acquisition “keeps getting pushed out”.

“It has taken an inordinate amount of time to get the order placed,” she said.

“These aren’t things that you just buy off a shelf, and even after they’re delivered, the commissioning period kicks in. We’re not going to get them for another 18 months. Right now, we’re operating at reduced capacity, but if we come back to full levels of commuters in September, we’ll be dealing with lack of space complaints again.”

BusConnects

Meanwhile, the tendering process for construction on BusConnects Dublin, the wholesale redesign of the capital’s bus transit system, will not begin before the end of this year, at the earliest, as “the formal planning process has not yet been initiated”, the NTA said.

At present the preliminary business case for the project is being reviewed by the stakeholder Government departments, the Department of Transport said. Once that is completed the case will be taken to Government for approval to proceed to the planning stage.

The business case is also being reviewed independently for the Department of Transport at European level by JASPERS, an agency of the European Investment Bank.

“I should also highlight that under the Public Spending Code Government approval will again be required... prior to the commencement of any such procurement,” Transport secretary general Ken Spratt told the Public Accounts Committee earlier this month.

The final bill for BusConnects, the biggest redesign of Dublin’s bus system in generations, is expected to be in the region of €2bn.

All told, €55m in expenditure from 2018 through 2020 was incurred on the project by the NTA, including €19.5m paid to one engineering firm in 2020 alone.

The plan, first announced in 2018 following a year-long wholesale review of the city’s bus services, will see the creation of 16 bus corridors, together with separate cycle lanes across Dublin, a project which would see 230km of priority lanes put in place.

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