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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 April, 2004, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
High flying arrival of new trains
A rehearsal for transporting the train took place six months ago
A rehearsal for transporting the train took place six months ago
The first of the new generation of trains set to replace much of Northern Ireland's ageing railway rolling stock has been delivered.

A huge operation got under way on Tuesday to transport the new carriage from Belfast Port to York Street railway station.

While the journey took just 10 minutes, the operation has been months in the planning.

And it will have to be repeated a further 68 times as the remainder of the 23 three-carriage trains are delivered.

Northern Ireland transport company Translink said the 80m investment was designed to meet the needs of rail travellers over the next 30 years.

Passengers will see more comfort, reliability, the latest safety standards and full accessibility
Joan Smyth

A further 30m is expected to be spent on parts and maintenance over the first 15 years of the trains' operation.

Enormous cranes lifted the first carriage off a ship from Spain and onto a lengthy lorry trailer.

The new trains were manufactured at CAF at Zaragoza in northern Spain.

They have been described as "the safest trains in the world" and are all expected to be operating within 12 months.

The poor reliability of Northern Ireland Railways' existing trains has dogged the service in recent years, with frequent breakdowns resulting in delays and cancellations.

'Heights of bridges'

Translink chairman Joan Smyth said the delivery of the first carriage was "a historic day" for Northern Ireland public transport.

"This is simply because for this suburban network, these new trains have been a long time in coming," she said.

"Passengers will see more comfort, reliability, the latest safety standards and full accessibility."

Tim Martin of haulage company Mar-Train said they had carried out a rehearsal for transporting the train six months ago.

"We had to go to the DRD for permission to move the train, then looked at things like the heights of bridges on the route and then consulted with the PSNI," he said.

The journey to York Street took just 10 minutes
The journey to York Street took just 10 minutes
"It is all in the planning - if we get that right, then there are no problems."

Journey times are set to be cut with the new 90mph trains, which have faster start-up and braking mechanisms.

The silver and blue carriages are air-conditioned, carpeted and fitted with aircraft-style seating for up to 200 passengers per train.

They have CCTV, audio announcements, wheelchair access and toilets for the disabled.

Translink said it made a saving of 3.5m on the transaction because of the sterling-euro values.

The trains will be subjected to a rigorous testing and commissioning programme of up to 16 weeks before entering service.

Translink said the move meant 75% of all trains were being replaced.

The company said its target was increasing rail passenger numbers by 60% over 10 years.

The trains are the first in the world to meet stringent safety standards set by the Association of Train Operating Companies in the wake of the Paddington rail disaster in London.

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