16th May 2014
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Kildare commuter service
The service, then known as the “Arrow”, began operating on 16th May 1994 – it was a day with lots of “new” features: the new service, new trains, new and reopened stations, and the start of new focus on meeting the increasing transport needs of a fast-growing commuter belt in Dublin and Leinster.
The trains – the 2600 class Railcars for train buffs – were from Japan, and were the first step in a move away from large locomotives hauling carriages to diesel Railcars, with integral engines in each carriages. Seventeen such Railcars entered service in May 1994, 10 of them on the Kildare route – today, Iarnród Éireann have 180 Railcars in total (including the arrival of a Spanish-built fleet in 1997, which as the Spanish Arrows quickly became known as Sparrows!)
The stations saw the reopening of Sallins, Hazelhatch and Clondalkin Stations, as well as the opening of a new station at Cherry Orchard. Sallins and Naas Station had been closed since 1963, with Hazelhatch & Celbridge, and Clondalkin since 1947, but growing populations changed the trend of transport demands significantly, as they have done since. Cherry Orchard Station was a new edition, and ended up being relatively shortlived as it was relocated to Park West just over fifteen years later.
The new service followed EU and Exchequer funded investment in new commuter trains and stations for the route. It was the first major commuter service expansion since the launch of the DART in 1984, and began a series of investments to meet the rapidly increasing demand for rail services in the commuter belt.
Over the past 20 years, numbers using the service have increased from an initial 500,000 passenger journeys annually to just under 2 million journeys in 2013.
Day 1 of the service included a slight glitch, when the launch train departed Newbridge Station, leaving the then Minister for Transport Brian Cowen was behind on the platform as he was opening the station!
However, things have run more smoothly since, and in total, an estimated 25 million people have commuted on the Kildare/Heuston route since the Commuter service was launched in 1994. The service itself has seen significant change including:
- Four-tracking of the Hazelhatch to Park West section to allow for expanded services
- New station building at Hazelhatch
- Relocated and expanded stations at Clondalkin (Clondalkin Fontghill) and Cherry Orchard (Park West)
- New station at Adamstown
- Expansion of commuter services to destinations including Portlaoise, Athlone, and Kilkenny.
- Car park expansion at stations along the route.
Further enhancements are planned for the future of the Kildare commuter service. The DART Expansion programme envisages the expansion of the DART to Hazelhatch, giving a direct service from Hazelhatch to the city centre via the DART Underground line (with stations at Inchicore, Heuston, Christchurch, St Stephen’s Green, Pearse and Spencer Dock), and onwards to the existing DART line servicing the northside of Dublin.
It is expected that the Government will make a decision in 2015 on including the DART expansion in the next national capital investment programme.
This weekend, Saturday 17th May and Sunday 18th May, as a thank you to the communities on the route who have supported the service for 20 years, Iarnród Éireann is offering:
- Free travel to children (accompanied by an adult) between Kildare and Heuston Station
- Free car parking at Iarnród Éireann station car parks en route (Kildare, Newbridge, Sallins, Hazelhatch)
Thank you to all of our customers who have travelled with us on the Kildare line over the past 20 years – we hope to see you on board over the next 20 years and beyond!