Beyond Orange and Black: Iarnród Éireann’s Future Fleet
(All photographs copyright of The Wanderer. Do Not Use Without Prior Permission)
In 2003, with commuter traffic into Dublin increasing rapidly on the roads and the growth of the intercity commuter sector on the rail network, it was clear that the existing fleet of locomotive hauled Mk2 and Mk3 coach stock in operation with Iarnród Éireann at that point would be unable to provide the capacity for growth, or to provide additional services, and so Iarnród Éireann looked to replace this rolling stock with either Diesel, or Diesel Electric, multiple units.
Under the National Development Plan, funding was available under the transport sector, or Transport 21 and Iarnród Éireann’s business case called for an anticipated total of 120 vehicles; to serve routes into Dublin from Limerick, Waterford, Tralee, Galway and Westport. An invitation to tender was processed in 2004, with six companies meeting the criteria and in December that year, the contract was awarded to Mitsui & Co. of Japan, with Hyundai Rotem of Korea designing, constructing and assembling the vehicles which, by the time of delivery, had risen to 234 vehicles over four separate orders.
Initially, the Class 22000 Inter City Railcar (ICR) was supplied in four distinct set variants:
- Units 22001-22006 as 3-car Standard Class, equipped for Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) operations.
- Units 22007-22030 and 22046-22063 as 3-car Standard Class.
- Units 22031-22040 as 6-car Premier Class (with catering vehicle).
- Units 22041-22045 as 6-car Standard Class (high density seating).
Emphasis was placed on passenger comfort and so the 2+2 seats were designed in ‘airline style’ and were matched to window bays, with a completely revised InterCity silver and green livery marking the stock as vastly different from the preceding Orange and Black era. Disabled and limited mobility access was given priority, along with toilet facilities, and space was given over to wheelchairs, bicycles and limited parcels carriage. Traction was supplied via MTU units.
Delivery into Ireland commenced from March 2007, initially into Dublin for loading onto the Alexandra Road railhead and then from early 2008 at Waterford’s deep water port, due to disruption caused by unloading at Dublin. Once unloaded, vehicles were formed into trains and moved to Limerick Works for commissioning and testing by Hyundai and Iarnród Éireann teams, followed by final acceptance trials at Inchicore, with sets typically taking 12 weeks from unloading to entry into passenger service.
The only major glitch in the supply chain came during the summer of 2007, when 3-car sets 10 and 11 were found to be riddled through with electrolyte corrosion of the piping and electrical systems, probably due to exposure to phosphorous gas in transit, and were rejected by Iarnród Éireann’s engineers and returned to Korea for replacement.
Deliveries of the 234 vehicles was fully completed by 2012; the first units having entered service in December 2007 on the Sligo line and initially the sets were each covering over 200,000km per annum, with reliability exceeding anything on the UK network at that time.
As traffic patterns changed, from 2013 over half the fleet were reformed into 4-car and 5-car sets to better match passenger demand on some routes, with cars being removed from some 6-car sets and added to some of the 3-car sets. These transfers were marked by a renumbering programme to the UIC format (although some vehicles still retain their original numbers) and typically, the transferred vehicles carry numbers in the 228xx range.
In 2019, an additional 41 vehicles were ordered to increase capacity at peak periods and the first of these new B2 MSO vehicles have now been delivered, arriving on September 7 2022. These new MSOs are intended to be integrated into new 6-car sets, with fleet formations changing again to consist of 21 x 3-car, 20 x 4-car and 22 6-car sets, against the current formations of 3-car, 4-car, 6-car or 7-car sets. The key routes set to benefit from the new sets, due to enter service in the first half of 2023, will be those trains into Dublin from Kildare, Maynooth/M3 Parkway and Dundalk/Drogheda, as well as the longer haul Intercity services.
The ICR fleet, being so new at introduction in 2007, required a purpose built maintenance facility and the new €69.5 million state-of-the-art Traincare Depot was constructed at Portlaoise, opening on July 25, 2008. As well as the purpose-built servicing and maintenance roads, fuelling depots and train cleaning facilities, the Depot also houses its own wheel-turning lathe, with vehicles being positioned in the lathe by a remotely controlled battery locomotive. An integral part of the wheel lathe equipment supplied by Sculfort, the company has created the RBL-020-400 Locotractor to position the train above the underfloor wheel lathes; operated from a control panel next to the lathe or from a mobile remote-control set.
Portlaoise’s Sculfort RBL-020-400 remote controlled battery locotractor is one of two units supplied by the company, the other being in place at SouthEastern’s Traincare Depot in the United Kingdom at Ashford, in Kent. With a top speed of just 3mph, the Locotractors are ideal vehicles for accurately positioning rolling stock and Portlaoise’s example is named after Tom Lynam, a former driver based at Portlaoise and carries the number 621, a tribute to the former G-Class locomotives that were used for shunting.
There are four vehicle types currently available within the 22000 Class:
- A1 Driving Cars in the 221xx range (designated as DRBFO), with 36 First Class seats, Buffet Counter and Accessibility toilet.
- A2 Driving Cars in the 222xx range (designated as DMSO), with 66 Standard Class seats and standard toilet.
- A3 Driving Cars in the 223xx range (designated as DMSO), with 52 Standard Class seats and Accessibility toilet (The A3 DMSO is the only one of the three driving cars to be present in all sets formed).
- B/B1 Intermediate Cars in the 224xx/225xx/226xx/227xx/228xx range (designated as MSO), with 72 Standard Class seats and standard toilets.
- The new B2 Intermediate Cars (MSO) have 60 Standard Class seats, with an additional 8 Priority seats and 9 flip-up seats in the cycle storage area, but will lack any toilet facilities.