So it has been just  a little over one week since the collapse of the viaduct over the Malahide Estuary. Last Friday I was as usual happily sat on the last carriage of the Enterprise, having the Friday night weekend banter with the lads and the next thing we hear an announcement. Ears alert!! So with same ears duly strained we hear the dulcet tones of the steward, (all the time sporting looks of expectant indignation that only seasoned train travellers can sport) and he says: “Would all passengers please leave the train as this service is cancelled due to a major incident on the line at Malahide.”

Now when we hear the words “major incident” our indignation immediately softens to a stance of “That doesn’t sound good. Sounds like somebody has been killed on the line.” Yep, our moods lightened considerably as we gathered dutifully and awaited the arrival of coaches from all arts and parts of the country that would “eventually” ferry us to Drogheda from where we would get a train to continue our journey north.

A short time later one of our company shows us the news on his wireless laptop and you can imagine our shock on seeing pictures of the collapsed railway line at Malahide. I was immediately reminded of that childhood favourite ‘The Railway Children.’ Basically if an alert train driver from an earlier service hadn’t reported his suspicions a major disaster could have resulted; it simply does nor bear thinking about.

My next feeling was one of propinquity because only a few days before, the Wednesday evening to be exact, I was chatting to the same travel companions and expressing my fears over the safety of the bridges. I was not really thinking about the Malahide Estuary to be honest but more about the high bridge over the river at Drogheda. Now, I have no idea when these bridges were actually built but my suspicion is that some of these are Victorian. That is a worry because I don’t think that Victorian engineers were designing structures for trains of the sheer size and weight of the Enterprise. I have no idea how much the Enterprise weighs but I would guess about 450 tons and I would guess a  good bit more than any Victorian steam train! Yeah, it’s a scary thought. I am not claiming a sixth sense nor an ability to see into the future but it was just an observation. You would wonder about the safety checks!

So anyway,  I read subsequently that the sea scouts at Malahide who sail the estuary daily have for two months been concerned about the oceanic goings on. They noted a sea change , they noted  problems, so much so that on the Tuesday before the collapse they alerted CIE who sent an engineer to check the structure. It must have been deemed as ok-that’s just an asumption mind you, based on the fact that they let the trains continue to roll until the collapse of the line itself on the Friday.

So imagine the despair amongst us regular travellers at the prospect of  delayed daily travel (not to mention the renewed confidence in the CIE safety engineers!). And so it panned out. In fairness the morning commute has thus far been bearable. On arrival at Drogheda from Newry we are met with a fleet of buses to ferry us to Dublin Connolly. This works well and the delay is around 15-20 minutes though I suspect it will worsen with the change of season, the worsening weather (if that is a possibility), and the return of school traffic.

The trip home is not so smooth, though by Friday of last week it was showing some signs of improvement. Again commuters are met by a fleet of buses to ferry them to Drogheda but then the problem begins. The wait for the Enterprise to take us North ranges from 1 hour 45 minutes to 5 minutes. If the 5 minutes is to become the norm then hats off to Translink and CIE but experience tells me different. The irony is that we, the commuters, know the answers:

1. Simply adjust the Enterprise timetable forward so that it meets the Drogheda buses. That’d be smooth.

2. Let NIR or CIE use a local train. NIR could offer a more frequent service to Drogheda and pick up the bussed commuters. CIE could operate a more frequent service from Drogheda to Newry and NIR could take it from there.

3. Refuel the Enterprise in Belfast as opposed to Drogheda since that is largely the source of the delay.

As the Meerkat would say “simples”.

I will keep you posted but as I say I don’t think that it will be so cheerful. In any case I have taken a few days off this week so maybe by the time I return it will all be sorted and maybe I will win the euromillions 5 weeks in a row!!!

…I know I should be grateful…but for an alert CIE train driver I could by now be a mere statistic on the roll of death in Ireland’s greatest ever rail tragedy-now that is food for thought!

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