Translink scraps timetable that would have slowed Belfast to Dublin Enterprise
A new timetable which would have meant longer train journeys between Belfast and Dublin has been scrapped, the boss of Translink has said.
Chris Conway told MLAs that proposed changes to the cross-border Enterprise service were not workable.
Any adjustments will not come into operation before April, and will be "very minor" with no increase in journey time, Mr Conway said.
The Belfast Telegraph reported in December how proposed timetable changes would have added 11 minutes to commuters' journeys.
An earlier 6.15am Belfast departure time had been due to begin at the end of January.
But the Enterprise would not reach Dublin's Connolly Station until 8.41am.
That would mean a journey time of two hours and 26 minutes - 11 minutes longer than at present and longer than the two hours and 25 minutes it takes to travel by bus.
The Enterprise service is operated jointly by Translink and Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail).
The proposed changes had been published on the Irish Rail website as part of a consultation with customers in the Republic, but were not made public in Northern Ireland, causing anger.
Appearing before Stormont's regional development committee yesterday, Mr Conway confirmed that the changes would not proceed.
"I have met with the chief executive of Irish Rail twice in January and the chair of Irish Rail and the chair of Translink have also met, and we've agreed that the proposed timetable by Irish Rail as it was outlined in their consultation is not a workable solution," he said. Mr Conway said the current timetable was the starting point for a discussion.
He added that there would be "a genuine attempt to enhance the service offered for cross-border customers. The earliest a new timetable would now be implemented would be early in April," he added.
An Enterprise management board has been set up to agree timetables, improvements in journey times and future investment and strategy.
Asked by committee chair Trevor Clarke about the new timetable, Mr Conway said it contained "very minor adjustments".
There will be no increase in journey time, he confirmed.
SDLP MLA John Dallat welcomed the announcement, saying longer train journeys were "not acceptable".
"If the timetable in its original format had gone ahead ... we would be setting back for ever and a day opportunities to create that express service that we all want," he said.
Mr Dallat added: "A train service from Belfast to Dublin arriving before 9am is absolutely critical in this modern day and age. I can't think of any other cities in Europe where that wouldn't be the case."
Currently, the Enterprise service leaves from Central Station.
However, MLAs were told the long-term plan is to move this back to Great Victoria Street station, which would knock several minutes off the journey time.
The committee also heard that a fault which led doors to open unexpectedly while the train was moving did not put passenger safety at risk.
Separate incidents occurred on December 17 and January 6. In the first case, a train manager on a service leaving Dublin heard air coming through the door.
The train stopped at the next station, was taken out of service and returned empty to Belfast where it was discovered that a bolt was faulty.
On January 6, a door partially opened "momentarily" before the Dublin-bound train arrived in Dundalk.
Ian Campbell, Translink's general engineering manager, told the committee: "At no time was there a risk caused by these incidents to our passengers or staff."