Northern Ireland's new trains right on track
It’s strangely flesh-coloured and doesn’t yet look like the cross-country speedster it will eventually become, but this is the bodyshell of the first of 20 state-of-the-art new trains being built for Translink.
It mightn’t look like much now... but this is the future of our rail network
The ‘proto-train’ is the first of a £105m order for the Class 4000 trains which are being manufactured by Construcciones y Auxillar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) in Zaragoza, Spain.
The finished bodyshells will next move on to the assembly line for interiors and equipment to be fitted, following by factory testing, and the first train could be in commercial use as soon as next summer.
The new trains are due to start arriving in Northern Ireland early next year when they will undergo night and day testing, including a process of mileage accumulation with each train needing to complete 2,000 miles fault-free before entering passenger service.
They will replace nine Class 450 trains and four Class 80 trains which have been on the network for at least 20 years, and will also be used to increase the frequency and capacity of services.
Welcoming the progress, Transport Minister Conor Murphy said: “Whilst more work still has to be done to make sure the trains can be delivered on time and utilised as effectively as possible, this major investment funded by Government creates a real opportunity to build on the successful renaissance of the railways which we have seen in recent years and which I have prioritised since coming into office.”
Translink head of business development Norman Maynes said the company had brought in 23 new Class 3000 trains in 2005 and the latest move means the remaining old trains on the network will be phased out.
“Those trains served us very well but since we got the Class 3000 trains we have grown the numbers of people using our rail services by over 60%. There is no doubt that the catalyst to that was the provision of the new trains,” he said.
“These trains will be as good as any in Europe — they have high levels of accessibility and very modern standards.
“With these ones, we have been able to look at more in terms of the environmental side. We’re conscious of energy use — we have LED lighting and we have a much more fuel efficient engine. It’s been kitted out to the latest European accessibility standards.
“In the beginning they will be introduced one by one on the Larne line.
“The majority of trains on that line are Class 450. After we get that fully converted we can improve the frequency and capacity of other lines.
“We could see the first train entering commercial service in the summer months next year but it will be 2013 before all are into commercial service.”
Investment in the 20 new Class 4000 trains is funded by the Department for Regional Development.
All trains will be fitted with external destination displays on the front and sides as well as audible and visual passenger information, signage in Braille and embossed lettering. Accessibility features include wheelchair access and dedicated accommodation for two wheelchairs and companion seats. There will also be a fully wheelchair-accessible toilet and accommodation for four bicycles.