'Flexible' Dart users urged to avoid morning rush-hour trips
Iarnrod Eireann will try to persuade Dart commuters to stagger their journeys during the morning rush hour in a bid to reduce the level of overcrowding on trains.
The rail company will today launch an initiative designed to encourage passengers who are flexible with the start time to their work or studies to consider using Dart services outside the peak morning period on weekdays.
A new website being launched - peaktime.ie - will allow Dart users to check what services are less crowded.
According to Iarnrod Eireann, one-in-six of all weekday journeys on the Dart are made between 8am and 9am.
The information on the website will be expanded in the coming months to include all commuter trains in the greater Dublin area.
The spokesman said the initiative was being launched to coincide with the busiest commuting time of the year as third-level students were going back to college.
Iarnrod Eireann said it was only focusing on the morning peak as it was more concentrated than the evening rush hour.
On average, 14,000 passengers travel on the Dart during the morning rush hour compared to 10,000 in the evening.
A record high of 20.9 million journeys were recorded on the Dart last year - up 10pc on 2017 - with forecasts estimating numbers will rise to 22 million this year.
A range of timetable changes was made in September 2018 to increase the frequency of Dart services between Bray and Howth Junction to every 10 minutes in both directions between 6.50am and 8pm.
Iarnrod Eireann said the peaktime initiative was about maximising the return of the existing capacity of its 144-carriage Dart fleet for the immediate future as new carriages won't be available to come into service before 2022.
The spokesperson said the company was expecting to place an order for 41 new carriages in the next few weeks.
A separate order for the largest and greenest fleet in Irish public transport history will see 600 electric and battery-electric-powered carriages delivered over a 10-year period, starting in 2024 for use across Dublin's commuter belt.
It is estimated between 50 and 100 of the new carriages will be dedicated to Dart services.
The €2bn Dart-expansion project will see the electrification of the rail network being extended to the Maynooth, M3-Parkway, Hazelhatch and Drogheda lines and will double the capacity of the Dart and commuter network in the greater Dublin area by 2027.
"In addition, the finalisation of the city centre signalling will also facilitate a modest increase in frequency," the spokesman added.
He acknowledged that the problem of overcrowded trains was more pronounced on services travelling into the city centre from the northside of Dublin.
The National Transport Authority had examined the possibility of buying second-hand carriages as a short-term solution to address capacity issues on the Dart service.
However, it is understood no appropriate responses were received to a tender process.
This is partly linked to the fact that Ireland's railway gauge is quite unusual and only found in parts of Australia and Brazil.
Meanwhile, Iarnrod Eireann has also announced it is introducing a later evening service from Dublin to Mullingar from September 30.
The existing 20.47 service from Connolly to Maynooth will be extended to serve Kilcock, Enfield and Mullingar on weekdays.
The new service will result in the cancellation of the 21.40 service from Maynooth to Connolly.