24/08/2009

Disaster Averted As Rail Bridge Fails

A major rail bridge has collapsed into an Irish river.

Alongside news that the Belfast to Dublin Enterprise service (pictured) will be disrupted for at least three months - following the collapse of the flood-hit railway viaduct - details of how near services came to disaster have emerged.

The train driver, who averted a major catastrophe, said "his legs went to jelly" after he realised how close the rush-hour commuter service had come to disaster as the ground underneath the track began sliding away.

There were around 60 passengers on board at the time while a packed northbound train carrying hundreds had recently also passed over the bridge.

Keith Farrelly, 33, from Dublin, used his emergency training to coast his train to safety over the embankment as it fell into the Malahide estuary on Friday evening and the track buckled under its own weight.

"It was such an unreal sight, I started thinking to myself 'did I really see that?'," he said.

"But when I walked back I saw it clearly, and my legs just went to jelly with the shock.

"I'm just glad that all of us on board, the passengers and myself, walked away from it safely."

Mr Farrelly was driving the 6.07pm service from Balbriggan, in north county Dublin, to Pearse station, in the centre of the capital, when he spotted the landslide.

"I looked at the northbound line and saw that the viaduct was giving way and that the track was hanging.
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"Immediately then, I could feel the ballast moving on the line beneath my train and realised the danger we were in.

"I decided to coast the train in, lightly braking, so I didn't put pressure on the track, and ensured we had momentum to get us safely to the station."

Now that disaster has been averted the authorities must try to deal with the situation.

About 90 trains normally pass over the viaduct every day and the incident has sparked demands for urgent tests on all railway bridges around Ireland.

Commuters who normally use the Belfast to Dublin rail line are being warned to add around 30 minutes to their journey time following the collapse of the line.

Iarnród Éireann said yesterday that arrangements are in place to provide extra buses for passengers affected by damage on part of the Belfast-Dublin railway line.

However, the line is expected to be closed for up to three months.

Belfast Enterprise services to Dublin are running with passengers being transferred by bus between Drogheda and Connolly Station.

A special bus service will operate directly between Drogheda and Dublin Connolly. Rail tickets are valid on these services. Customers from Dundalk, Laytown and Gormanston can connect to this service by using the Dundalk/Drogheda to Skerries rail services. This service will utilise Dublin Port Tunnel.

For Balbriggan/Skerries/Rush and Lusk commuters, Dublin Bus will provide an enhanced number 33 bus service and an enhanced peak-time route 33B service directly between Donabate and the City Centre. This will also use the Port Tunnel.

(BMcC/KMcA)

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