Dublin to Cork by train

Published on 19 December 2009 in , , , , , , ,

When we were researching Ireland, one of the places that stood out was Cork, down in the south of the country. A good pub culture, Blarney Castle and lots more. It seemed to be the place to go!

Heuston Railway Station - Dublin

Photograph by informatique. Creative Commons licensed.

But how to get there from Dublin? Well there was really only one sensible option, given I hate coaches and didn’t want to hire a car. That just left by train. We looked at Iarnrod Eireann‘s website to find some trains.

The Dublin to Cork run is part of the Irish InterCity network, with hourly trains. The booking process was relatively painless, even allowing you to choose your exact seats on the train. If you didn’t want such granularity, there was an automatic option, however the site went on to tell us that we were not guaranteed to actually get two seats together… Yes, that does seem a rather stupid thing to have in your automatic booking system, and led to us discussing the merits of sitting in the middle of the last carriage vs sitting in the end of the third.

Back in more sensible lands, we were given the option to pick up the tickets from ticket machines in Dublin (useful given the website offered no options for postage to the UK) and so arriving at Heuston station with our luggage, we were ready to go!

I often marvel when outside London just how quiet train stations can be. Even in Paris, stations can be almost devoid of activity during the daytime. Given Dublin Heuston has about 12 platforms, and there were plenty of trains around, there was surprisingly little going on as we headed to the 11am train to Cork and up to the automatic ticket barriers – which, coincidentally, don’t work if you have bought a ticket online. You have to head to the big sign marked “ONLINE TICKETS” instead. Sure that makes sense to someone…

When we got on board (late, thanks to the train arriving late), we found our seats thanks to the above sear electronic display which had our names on it. Virgin Trains occasionally do this on their trains, however such an idea has never gone very far in the UK despite the obvious benefits for stopping people arguing about who is in the wrong seat. The trains also had illuminated displays which showed the train route and the position of the train – again a simple but neat system.

Before leaving Britain I’d read it’s often faster to go to Cork by car than it is by the flagship InterCity service and as we slugged slowly out of Dublin you could see why. For miles and miles we went barely faster than the average London commuter service – all of which appeared to be timetabled. This hadn’t gone unremarked by some Irish travellers going to a funeral who spent most of the journey talking about the dire state of the service, whilst taking enthusiastically about the various transport improvements in Dublin city. They treated public transport as a conversation piece like most people use the weather.

The actual journey was supposed to be three hours, although thanks to the delays that got extended to three and a half. At least the seats were comfy, although the windows had a bizarre blue tint.

Still, there was no need to even go up to the buffet car thanks to the trolley service as we seemed to be told every 10 minutes by the automatic announcement system – it would have been nice if someone had turned it off, or at least bothered to programme it to apologise for the delay. Indeed on our way back from Cork to Dublin we boarded a train that was 45 minutes late and the staff barely batted an eyelid, whilst most of the passengers had a resigned look on their faces…

Being late seems to be something of a regularity on Dublin/Cork route. Back in Dublin, I couldn’t help but notice the punctuality record posters. A mere 80% of trains made it between the two stations on time in the period we were there… But yes, lets accentuate the positive. At least there is a trolley service… Two teas please. What’s that? You’re out of milk? Nooooo………..