There has been a “notable increase” in the number of train collisions involving large animals, typically cattle and deer, according to the Commission for Railway Regulation.

In its Annual Report 2020, the commission highlighted that the total number of train collisions reached its highest level over the last decade, surpassing a previous high of 68 collisions in 2016.

2020 saw more than triple the previous year’s number of collisions of 22 – rising to 72 last year.

More than half of these – some 38 collisions – involved large animals on the line.

The next highest cause listed was “train collision with other obstacle on the line”, accounting for 29 instances, while the remaining two causes were “train/railway vehicle collision in station or possession movement” (four incidents) and “train collision with a motor vehicle at a level crossing” (one incident).

Commenting on safety performance over the year, the commission said:

“In an operational context there were…reductions in the number of occurrences within categories, e.g., signals passed at danger and derailments.

“The only category that saw a notable increase in the number of occurrences was in train collisions and specifically with large animals, typically cattle and large deer.”

When compared with other European member states, Ireland’s safety performance is good, the report said.

“However, we must be cognisant of the fact that the small size of the IÉ-IM [Iarnród Éireann Infrastructure Manager] network means that this statistic must be viewed with caution as even a small number of accidents would have a significant effect on this standing,” the commission report said.