IRISH RAIL SAID they must develop a new policy emphasizing ‘customer response’ rather than worrying about train rescues after two engine failures caused major delays on an intercity service.
The stranded passengers ended up being transferred to a crowded service, sparking a wave of complaints on social media, before finally arriving at their destination in Dublin around five hours late.
An internal report said lessons needed to be learned about prioritizing customers instead of emphasizing rescuing broken down trains.
Irish Rail said it had received more than 200 complaints about the service, but at no time had any train involved been crowded beyond its maximum capacity.
The internal report says managers left to deal with the fallout from the major delays found themselves with an impossible task, trying to resolve issues with the train, arranging taxis, arranging hotel rooms and other tasks.
The report also says something needs to be done about the lack of food and drink on train services due to public health restrictions.
He suggested: “Bring Railgourmet [on-board catering] return, even in a limited capacity [or] seek a formal response from catering providers/supermarkets who may be called upon to supply water and food to a location.
The problems started when the 12.25pm service left Cork Kent station for Dublin Heuston with around 160 passengers on board at the end of December.
About a mile south of Portlaoise she suffered what was described as a “catastrophic event” with a large amount of smoke in her engine room.
The conductor was unable to get the train to restart and a ‘coast’ plane in the Portlaoise platform was derailed as a local service was already boarding there.
The internal report says the site’s updates are “poor”, meaning information is not being passed to blocked passengers.
As it became clear that the train would be at least three hours late, a warning was also issued about locking toilets on board due to a risk of overflow.
There was no stock of food or water on board for customers, and there were not enough staff available to bring in items from a local supermarket.
The report said: ‘Upon arrival in Heuston, bottled water was made available and several customers took advantage of it.
“Those guests who spend the night at the Ashling Hotel [near Heuston in Dublin] were provided with food and bottled water/minerals after check-in.
Irish Rail’s bad luck continued when a locomotive sent to rescue the stranded train also ‘declared a breakdown’ according to the internal report.
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He said this put the failure in ‘crisis mode’ where the only option now available was to transfer passengers from the broken down train to a later service from Cork to Dublin, which followed.
In a section of the report titled ‘lessons learnt’, Irish Rail said they needed a better system to keep passengers informed during major delays.
The train operator said there were eventually 301 customers on board the combined service which eventually arrived in Dublin.
They said this did not exceed the capacity of the Mark IV type train being used and that Irish Rail was operating at 100% capacity under public health restrictions on December 28.
Irish Rail said that as of January 12 they had received a total of 207 complaints about the disruption caused that day.
The significant delay meant taxis and hotels had to be arranged for the many passengers who had missed flights and connections.
A spokesperson added: “We recognize that the response to the incident was well below what our customers have come to expect, which is why we immediately conducted a detailed review of all aspects of the incident.
“While we understand this will be of no comfort to customers who have been enormously delayed… such delays are extremely rare.”