Boston Consulting have published their annual comparison of train services across Europe, and Ireland does not fare well.

The source data is available here but it’s not easy to compare like-for-like, so The Circular has broken it down into a series of tables and maps.

The study looked at the safety, quality (reliability and speed) and coverage (how many people can use it), to create a total score. Unsurprisingly the top spot when to Switzerland which is famed for its reliability, with Ireland looking left behind at a rank of 18 out of 25.

The full scores are shown here on this map:

A map of the full scores. (John Randall / base map Creative Commons licence BY-SA 3.0

Total Score vs. Spending

This table shows the full list of scores on the left, and compares it with how much each country invests per person, to see whether a poor score can be explained by poor funding.

Total Score Spending
  1. Switzerland
  2. Denmark
  3. Finland
  4. Austria
  5. Germany
  6. France
  7. Sweden
  8. Lithuania
  9. Great Britain
  10. Netherlands
  11. Luxembourg
  12. Czechia (Czech Republic)
  13. Spain
  14. Norway
  15. Belgium
  16. Italy
  17. Slovenia
  18. Ireland
  19. Hungary
  20. Latvia
  21. Slovakia
  22. Poland
  23. Portugal
  24. Romania
  25. Bulgaria
  1. Austria
  2. Switzerland
  3. Luxembourg
  4. Belgium
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Great Britain
  8. France
  9. Czechia (Czech Republic)
  10. Sweden
  11. Denmark
  12. Slovakia
  13. Germany
  14. Slovenia
  15. Hungary
  16. Italy
  17. Netherlands
  18. Spain
  19. Ireland
  20. Finland
  21. Portugal
  22. Poland
  23. Lithuania
  24. Romania
  25. Bulgaria

In theory the two columns should be the same. For Ireland this works out. Lithuania seems to be getting excellent value for money, while Latvia is pouring money down the drain.

Safety vs. Spending

To understand how Ireland scored what it did, you need to break it down into the three categories. When it comes to safety, things look pretty good: Ireland’s safety record is excellent and much better than that of countries which spend more on their infrastructure.

Safety Score Spending
  1. Denmark
  2. Luxembourg
  3. Great Britain
  4. Ireland
  5. Netherlands
  6. Switzerland
  7. Finland
  8. France
  9. Sweden
  10. Lithuania
  11. Germany
  12. Spain
  13. Norway
  14. Austria
  15. Italy
  16. Belgium
  17. Czechia (Czech Republic)
  18. Slovenia
  19. Portugal
  20. Hungary
  21. Latvia
  22. Bulgaria
  23. Slovakia
  24. Poland
  25. Romania
  1. Austria
  2. Switzerland
  3. Luxembourg
  4. Belgium
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Great Britain
  8. France
  9. Czechia (Czech Republic)
  10. Sweden
  11. Denmark
  12. Slovakia
  13. Germany
  14. Slovenia
  15. Hungary
  16. Italy
  17. Netherlands
  18. Spain
  19. Ireland
  20. Finland
  21. Portugal
  22. Poland
  23. Lithuania
  24. Romania
  25. Bulgaria

The bottom three all have appalling safety records – particularly concerning for Slovakia who are spending a lot of money on their railway.

Poland, Portugal and Hungary in particular are popular Interrail destinations but people may want to think twice when they see this.

Scenic views weren’t measured in the test. (Photo: John Randall)

Quality vs. Spending

With such a good safety score, how did Ireland manage to achieve such a mediocre average? It all falls apart when quality (reliability and journey times) were analysed:

Quality Score Spending
  1. Spain
  2. Finland
  3. France
  4. Lithuania
  5. Denmark
  6. Switzerland
  7. Germany
  8. Latvia
  9. Austria
  10. Italy
  11. Portugal
  12. Norway
  13. Czechia (Czech Republic)
  14. Hungary
  15. Belgium
  16. Poland
  17. Sweden
  18. Slovakia
  19. Great Britain
  20. Netherlands
  21. Luxembourg
  22. Bulgaria
  23. Romania
  24. Slovenia
  25. Ireland
  1. Austria
  2. Switzerland
  3. Luxembourg
  4. Belgium
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Great Britain
  8. France
  9. Czechia (Czech Republic)
  10. Sweden
  11. Denmark
  12. Slovakia
  13. Germany
  14. Slovenia
  15. Hungary
  16. Italy
  17. Netherlands
  18. Spain
  19. Ireland
  20. Finland
  21. Portugal
  22. Poland
  23. Lithuania
  24. Romania
  25. Bulgaria

Ireland came stone, cold last. According to the report, the problem was that it takes too long to get anywhere. We can at least take some solace that the Netherlands – normally praised for their efficient lifestyle – didn’t do much better.

Usage vs. Spending

The third test looked at how many journeys are actually made by train. The idea is that a country which has a decent infrastructure system should have lots of people trying to use it, and Ireland doesn’t score very well here either.

Usage Score Spending
  1. Switzerland
  2. Austria
  3. Sweden
  4. Germany
  5. Finland
  6. Czechia (Czech Republic)
  7. Hungary
  8. Slovakia
  9. France
  10. Denmark
  11. Slovenia
  12. Lithuania
  13. Belgium
  14. Latvia
  15. Poland
  16. Netherlands
  17. Norway
  18. Great Britain
  19. Italy
  20. Luxembourg
  21. Romania
  22. Spain
  23. Bulgaria
  24. Portugal
  25. Ireland
  1. Austria
  2. Switzerland
  3. Luxembourg
  4. Belgium
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Great Britain
  8. France
  9. Czechia (Czech Republic)
  10. Sweden
  11. Denmark
  12. Slovakia
  13. Germany
  14. Slovenia
  15. Hungary
  16. Italy
  17. Netherlands
  18. Spain
  19. Ireland
  20. Finland
  21. Portugal
  22. Poland
  23. Lithuania
  24. Romania
  25. Bulgaria

So their conclusion appears to be that Irish Rail won’t take you to where you need to be, but they’ll do it very safely!