By Jim Walsh,
Operations Planning Manager
We introduced our new timetable just over six weeks ago, and we’ve had a lot of feedback both positive and negative on some of the changes introduced. We thought it worthwhile to review the process of introducing the timetable, and how we’ve responded to feedback received.
At the outset, we had three key factors to consider in planning the new timetable:
- Current and potential demand levels, which have changed considerably in recent years
- Cost considerations: the need to ensure that the services are delivered as cost effectively as possible, which is linked to demand
- Journey time improvements: the need to deliver faster journey times on key routes, particularly to and from Heuston Station
With that in mind, draft schedules were produced. These were put online in two phases, in September for Connolly routes, and in late November for Heuston and regional routes.
This gave the opportunity for customers across the network to examine the proposed changes, and to give feedback on what was planned. While constraints in finances in particular meant not everything requested in feedback could be delivered, we were able to implement some changes to the draft timetable arising from the feedback.
Changes through feedback to the proposed schedule included:
- Departure time alterations to some Carlow, Galway, Mayo and Kerry services
- Changes in stopping patterns on a number of services, including restoring some stops for Kildare and Newbridge
The schedule is also subject to the approval of the National Transport Authority. When this approval was granted, it was uploaded to our website in early January, to be introduced from 20th January 2013, as we were anxious to achieve the cost savings and journey time improvements as soon as possible.
The introduction of the new times coincided with a prolonged period of disruptive weather, which meant that the early days of the schedule saw many delays. However, with some exceptions, the overall schedule has now been performing well, outside of individual faults (such as a major delay at Sallins on 13th February last).
The improved journey times are being delivered, and where we have specific issues – such as the impact of an extra train on the Galway service (it’s a single track, so crossings with other trains can get complex), we are examining these issues to see if we can tweak the schedule and improve punctuality.
Another issue which arose was capacity on a number of services, particularly the 18.10 from Heuston to Portlaoise and the 18.35 Heuston to Waterford. While we are trying to save costs through matching supply with demand, and while standing is to be expected for short commuter journeys, it became apparent very quickly that these trains did not have sufficient capacity.
The 18.10 was increased in size after a number of days, and after examining our fleet allocations across the revised timetable, and changes in demand, we were able to increase the size of the 18.35 train from 19th February. We’ll continue to monitor demand and train size throughout this timetable, and make changes where we see shifts in demand.
In this way, the timetable review process is an ongoing one. While we generally will implement no more than one major change per annum, the actual formal process begins this month again. Demand, customer feedback, our own resources, commercial opportunities, liaison with the NTA, infrastructure considerations and more are all examined as we plan ahead.
So, while we will again nearer the time issue a draft for your feedback, all customer feedback on timetables throughout the year does feed in to what we do. While every timetable change prompts a range of views, we do our best to ensure that we deliver a schedule that is convenient for as many people as possible, and meets the demand for our services.