Sail-Rail from Sheffield to Dublin – What’s it like?
I got the train to Holyhead on Oct 2nd, the day after a strike, so I was a bit worried that my journey would be disrupted. Although Northern had cancelled the 09:14 stopper, the 09:11 express was running and they even took the time to attach an extra unit. I had time at Piccadilly for a coffee+xant and a comfortable TfW train got me to Chester. It was a very tight connection at Chester – if I had been able to get there earlier I would have : and the 2-car train was very busy, but there was the odd seat & I was able to get a good one with a view after a couple of stops – ideally on this train you sit on the right hand side to get the sea views. At Holyhead, although my ticket said Irish Ferries, Stena Line were happy to take me – imagine rocking up to the Ryanair desk with an EasyJet ticket! I checked in my Brompton – no extra charge for this – and the bus drives you right on to the ferry and soon you’re sitting in a comfortable lounge sipping a tea (other beverages are available) Onwards to Dublin!
I had picked up a puncture on my Brompton somewhere and contacted my pal Damien to see whether he could meet me with a repair outfit. Sure enough he turned up complete with dog, cargo bike and full repair kit – soon we were on our way. An off-road route from the city to the ferry port is being built but not quite ready yet, so we shared the road with a few artics to get out of the port. Obviously we had to stop for a drink before heading home.
Active Travel in Dublin
There have been a lot of changes in Dublin since I was last there. The tipping point was the Velo-City conference in 2005 which opened up Irish politicians, planners and campaigners to the possibilities. Upcoming at that time was the opening of the tunnel to the Ferryport, which took heavy truck traffic off the Quays and created space for the planners. At that time the Luas light rail system had termini on each side of the city but now it is linked up. Cycle lanes, formerly just white paint on the road, are now becoming segregated, sometines initially lightly with “wands” but increasingly with permanent demarcations. And there are plenty of cyclists about! Dublin is a city of the young with a thriving University culture. Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART, a nod to the BART San Francisco system, perhaps?) has plenty of room for bikes as does the heavy rail system.
Heading up north to Howth, every main road had a separate, well used cycleway system. Greenways are being built in the city and across the country as well – the Royal Canal and Grand Canal towpaths are very cycleable and Damien took me out to see the new River Dodder Greenway, providing access to the Balrothery Weir, an amazing stepped weir, previously quite hard to find.
The investment in all this, coming from austerity-hit Britain, is quite astounding. Unfortunately a side-effect of all this development has been that housing prices have gone through the roof, as everyone wants to live in Eire now.
Sadly I had to leave and the sail-rail journey back all went well until arriving in Manchester to find many cancelled trains and everyone heading for Sheffield squeezed onto one Northern Rail stopper. Welcome back to the UK!