This week's Independent News & Media regional newspapers' column.
Irish Rail has launched a new website. At a first glance It looks a great improvement on the old one. It went live on Monday, April 24.
It has many advantages on the previous one. It's easier to navigate.
The new site allows you see the direction you will be sitting. With the old site people often complained that they would prefer to be facing in the direction of travel but were unable to make such a decision when booking online.
According to a spokesperson for Irish Rail 83 per cent of passengers book on line, have Leap Cards, monthly tickets or buy annual Taxsaver Tickets. Those figures would seem to indicate that the overwhelming majority of the paying travelling public are computer literate.
Last year, 2016, Irish Rail carried 42.8 million passengers, which was an increase of eight per cent on the previous year. And so far this year their numbers are up four per cent on the corresponding period for 2016.
On the May Bank Holiday Sunday I made a return trip from Dublin to Tralee. Yes, the fabulous blue skies added to the adventure but I have to say I was greatly impressed with the service.
We do a lot of giving out in Ireland but so often when things work well there's not a whisper from us.
My morning train to Tralee, which cut right through the finest land in the country was fabulous. The train was clean and arrived on time in Tralee. The fact that it was a quiet train added to the luxury. By Sunday most people had done their travelling and were at their destinations.
The return journey later that day meant a crowded train back to Dublin. Again, it all worked to excellent timing and we arrived in Dublin one minute early, three hours 44 minutes from Tralee to Heuston Station is most acceptable.
It did occur to me on both journeys Irish Rail have been ever so quiet about their new website. I only found out about it from the passenger sitting beside me on the up journey that Sunday. Why not advertise it and tell passengers about the positive changes. They could use the on-board intercom system to tell passengers.
The most significant change on the new site is the range of tickets that can be purchased. Before this there was just first and standard class. There was a rule of thumb the earlier you bought the ticket the cheaper it would be.
With the new website there are different types of tickets, all at different prices. There are Non Flexible, Medium Flexible and Fully Flexible tickets. If you go for the Non Flexible ticket you have to travel on the booked train but if you book a Medium Flexible ticket you can change to the train before or after the one you have booked. The Fully Flexible option is an open ticket, which allows the passenger to travel at any time.
There are rules and conditions, which have to be fulfilled but the new system is imaginative and smart.
And more good news, over 1,000 passengers are using the new service through the Phoenix Park tunnel at peak times every day. It is planned to extend this service to weekends and off-peak times.
The tunnel was built in 1877. The track has been relayed and automatic signalling installed. The new service began rolling through the tunnel in November. At present trains travel no further south than Newbridge but it can't be long before they steam on to Portlaoise. Who knows where they might stop?
Well done Irish Rail.