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Rail transport in Ireland

An Iarnród Éireann 22000 Class DMU at Colbert Station, Limerick
Major operators Iarnrod Éireann & NIR
System length
Total 2,733 km (1,698 mi)
Electrified 53 km (33 mi)
Freight only 362 km (225 mi)
Track gauge
Irish Gauge 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
1500 V DC DART in Dublin
No. stations 147
Active train lines in Ireland, with locations of major Airports and Ports in proximity to rail lines

Heavy Rail services in Ireland (InterCity, Commuter and Freight) are provided by Iarnród Éireann in the Republic of Ireland and by Northern Ireland Railways in Northern Ireland.

Most routes in the Republic of Ireland radiate from Dublin. Northern Ireland has suburban routes from Belfast and two main InterCity lines, to Derry and cross-border to Dublin.

The accompanying map of the current railway network shows lines that are (a) fully operational (B) carrying freight only traffic (C) which have been "mothballed" (i.e. closed to traffic but potentially easily re-openable). Some airports are indicated but none is rail-connected although Kerry Airport and Belfast City Airport are within walking distance of a railway station. Both the City of Derry Airport and Belfast International (Aldergrove) are near railway lines but not connected. Ports are marked, though few remain rail-connected. Larne Harbour is one port still connected.

Ireland's only Light Rail service is in Dublin and called Luas. No Metro lines currently exist in Ireland but a Dublin Metro is planned.


  • History 1
  • Traction 2
    • Locomotives 2.1
    • Multiple units 2.2
  • Rolling stock 3
  • Passenger services 4
    • Republic of Ireland InterCity routes 4.1
      • Dublin to Cork 4.1.1
      • Dublin to Limerick 4.1.2
      • Dublin to Galway 4.1.3
      • Dublin to Tralee 4.1.4
      • Dublin to Waterford 4.1.5
      • Dublin to Westport/Ballina 4.1.6
      • Dublin to Arklow/Rosslare Europort 4.1.7
      • Dublin to Sligo 4.1.8
      • Cork to Tralee 4.1.9
      • Limerick to Waterford 4.1.10
      • Limerick-Ennis-Galway 4.1.11
    • Republic of Ireland Commuter Routes 4.2
      • Dublin Suburban Rail 4.2.1
      • Mallow to Cork 4.2.2
      • Cobh to Cork 4.2.3
      • Midleton to Cork 4.2.4
      • Galway to Athenry 4.2.5
      • Limerick to Ennis 4.2.6
      • Limerick to Nenagh & Ballybrophy 4.2.7
      • Waterford to Rosslare (Closed) 4.2.8
    • Northern Ireland Routes 4.3
      • Belfast Suburban 4.3.1
      • Belfast to Derry 4.3.2
      • Coleraine to Portrush 4.3.3
      • Belfast to Larne Harbour 4.3.4
    • Cross – Border Routes 4.4
      • Belfast to Dublin / Dublin to Belfast 4.4.1
  • Freight 5
  • Heritage Railways 6
  • Future 7
    • Heavy rail Dublin City Centre Resignalling 7.1
    • Heavy rail to Navan 7.2
    • DART Underground 7.3
  • Railway reopening in Northern Ireland 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


1906 railway map

The first railway in Ireland opened in 1834. At its peak in 1920, Ireland had 5,600 km (3,480 mi) of railway, now only about one third of this remains. A large area around the border area has no rail service.

Ireland's first Light rail line was opened in 30 June 2004.



Diesel traction is the sole form of motive power in both the IÉ and NIR networks, apart from the electrified Howth/Malahide-Greystones (DART) suburban route in Dublin. Apart from prototypes and a small number of shunting locomotives, the first major dieselisation programme in CIÉ commenced in the early 1950s with orders for ninety-four locomotives of two sizes (A and C classes) from Metropolitan-Vickers which were delivered from 1955, with a further twelve (B class) locomotives from Sulzer in the late 1950s.

C&L [Cavan & Leitrim Line] locomotive being dismantled in 1959.

Following poor reliability experience with the first generation diesel locomotives, in the 1960s a second dieselisation programme was undertaken with the introduction of sixty-four locomotives in three classes (121, 141 and 181) built by General Motors, of the United States. This programme, together with line closures, enabled CIÉ to re-eliminate steam traction in 1963, having previously done so on the CIÉ network prior to taking over its share of the Great Northern Railway. In parallel, NIR acquired three locomotives from Hunslet, of England, for Dublin-Belfast services. The Metropolitan-Vickers locomotives were re-engined by CIÉ in the early 1970s with General Motors engines.

The third generation of diesel traction in Ireland was the acquisition of eighteen locomotives from General Motors of 2475 h.p. output, designated the 071 class, in 1976. This marked a significant improvement in the traction power available to CIÉ and enabled the acceleration of express passenger services. NIR subsequently purchased three similar locomotives for Dublin-Belfast services, which was the first alignment of traction policies by CIÉ and NIR.

A fourth generation of diesels took the form of thirty-four locomotives, again from General Motors, which arrived in the early 1990s. This was a joint order by IÉ and NIR, with thirty-two locos for the former and two for the latter. They were again supplied by General Motors Electro-Motive Division. IÉ designated their locomotives the GM 201 class; numbered 201 to 234 (the NIR locos were later prefixed with an 8). These locomotives are the most powerful diesels to run in Ireland, and are of 3200 horsepower (2.5 MW), which enabled further acceleration of express services. The NIR locos, although shipped in NIR livery, were repainted in 'Enterprise' livery, as were two of the IÉ locos.

The 071 class are now used on freight services. NIR's three similar locomotives are numbered 8111, 8112 and 8113. There is seldom more than one of these serviceable at a time. NIR regularly lends these locomotives to IE.

Multiple units

NIR and IÉ both run suburban services using diesel multiple units (DMUs) – these are termed railcars in Ireland (see rail terminology).

Irish Rail Railcars

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated   Built 
 mph   km/h 
2600 Class diesel multiple unit 70 110 8 Mallow-Cork-Cobh
Mallow-Tralee (Sundays only)
2800 Class diesel multiple unit 75 120 8 Limerick-Waterford
Limerick shuttle
29000 Class 29000 Class DMU diesel multiple unit 75 120 29 Dublin-Maynooth
Dublin-M3 Parkway
Dublin-Rosslare Europort
22000 Class diesel multiple unit 100 160 28 3-car, 25 4-car & 10 5-car sets Dublin Newbridge/Kildare/Portlaoise
Dublin-Cork/M3 Parkway/Maynooth/Mullingar/Longford/Sligo
Limerick shuttle
Tralee shuttle

IÉ DMUs operate all InterCity services apart from Dublin to Cork and Dublin to Belfast (one service per week from Dublin Connolly to Belfast and back is Railcar).

Irish Rail 22000 Class InterCity Railcars

There are 234 22000 Class carriages in total, being formed into the following sets:

  • Ten 5-car sets — Each set includes a 1st Class Carriage and a Dining Carriage. They are used on key InterCity services between Dublin and Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Westport and Tralee.
  • Twenty-five 4-car sets — These mostly operate on their own or with a 3-car unit. They serve lesser-used InterCity services and some Dublin to Sligo and Rosslare services.
  • Twenty-eight 3-car sets — These mostly operate in pairs. They serve lesser-used InterCity services and many Dublin Commuter services.

Features of the InterCity Railcar fleet include:

  • Automatic PA and information display systems
  • Electronic seat reservation displays for web bookings,
  • Fully air-conditioned,
  • Internal CCTV system
  • Sleek carriage design
  • Advanced safety features throughout

Irish Rail Suburban Railcars

IÉ introduced seventeen new suburban railcars in 1993 as the 2600 Class (built by Tokyu Car, Japan) for the Kildare 'Arrow' suburban service. Further additions to the fleet were made in 1997 (twenty-seven 2700 Class, Alstom built), 2000 (twenty 2800 Class, Tokyu Car built) and 2003 (eighty 29000 class, CAF built). When the 29000 Class was introduced all Irish railcars were re-branded from 'Arrow' to 'Commuter'. A further nine 4-car 29000 Class trainsets arrived in 2005.

NIR Railcars

NIR replaced their ageing DMUs with Class 3000 regional railcars built by CAF, which arrived in 2005.

Rolling stock

Mark 4

Iarnrod Eireann's flagship InterCity fleet are the Mark 4.

Mark 4 InterCity at Dublin Heuston station with Mark 3 carriages in the background

Built by CAF of Spain in 2004-2005 they are formed into 8-car sets, pushed or pulled by a Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer (DVT) and a 201 Class locomotive. Each set contains (in order):

  • A GM 201 class locomotive
  • 5 Standard class carriages
  • 1 restaurant carriage
  • 1 'Citygold' (first class) carriage
  • A driving trailer generator van

The Mark 4 trains have blue tinted windows, which help to create a cool journey for the passenger, electronic route maps showing train progress, and electronic seat reservation displays. Citygold customers on this fleet have the added features of adjustable seating, greater room and comfort, in-seat audio entertainment, and power points for laptops, or recharging PDAs, MP3 players or mobile phones. They are used exclusively on the Dublin to Cork route; operating an hourly service each way.

The Mark 4 trains are capable of speeds of up to 125 mph (201 km/h), but are limited to a maximum speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) because of the line speed and the speed of the 201 class locomotives.


The Dublin to Belfast 'Enterprise' service is operated jointly by IÉ & NIR with rolling stock from De Dietrich, commissioned in 1997. These sets comprise a dining car, two first class carriages and driving van trailer (DVT) for push-pull operation. Four Mark 3 Generator vans were introduced in September 2012. Until then, 201 Class locomotives were required to supply head-end power (HEP) for heating and lighting.

NIR also had a number of refurbished Class 488 carriages acquired from the Gatwick Express service and converted to run on the Irish 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) gauge. These were generally referred to as 'the Gatwicks'. They were in use from 2001 until June 2009.

One of the 34 GM locomotives bought in the 1990s, IÉ locomotive 215 "River AvonmoreAn Abhainn Mhor", sits at Grand Canal Dock DART station.

Passenger services

Below is a list of all passenger routes on the island of Ireland. Please note following when examining routes

1. Services below usually, but not necessarily always, involve a change of trains. Changing points are shown in bold type.

2. Services at different times of day will serve a different subset of the stations shown below. The "stations served" lists all possible stops for any train on a given route. As an example, some services to Limerick do not involve a change at Limerick Junction, and some services to Cork may stop at Limerick Junction, Charleville and Mallow only.

Republic of Ireland InterCity routes

Dublin to Cork

Stations served – Dublin Heuston, Newbridge, Kildare, Portarlington, Portlaoise, Ballybrophy, Templemore, Thurles, Limerick Junction, Charleville, Mallow, Cork Kent

This was known as the 'Premier Line' of the Great Southern and Western Railway (GS&WR), being one of the longest routes in the country (272 km or 170 miles), built to a high standard and connecting to Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Kerry as well as to Cork. These other destinations all have their own services, although connections are offered to/from the Cork service at Limerick Junction (for Limerick) and Mallow (for Kerry).

As of 2015 the line is receiving a major upgrade. There are possessions of most sections of the line every night to carry out relaying. There are also major disruption & cancellations on most weekends. All relaying is using a much heavier rail to give a much smoother ride on trains. The new track at 60 kg, is the same that is used on the AVE in Spain. As the upgrading continued there was many speed restrictions which seriously affecting puncuality of trains. As of 2015 21 out of 28 services on the route daily are delivered in 2 hours 30 mins to 2 hours 35 mins, with all services 2 hours 45 mins or less.[1]

Dublin to Limerick

Stations served – Dublin Heuston, Sallins and Naas, Newbridge, Kildare, Monasterevin, Portarlington, Portlaoise, Ballybrophy, Templemore, Thurles, Limerick Junction, Limerick Colbert

This service follows the Cork route as far as Limerick Junction. Limerick services leave the main line via a direct curve built in 1967, onto part of the former Waterford and Limerick Railway (W&LR). The former two hourly timetable operated by 22000 Class railcars was cut back in November 2009 when the number of direct trains between Dublin and Limerick was reduced to just three in each direction. The remaining Dublin-Limerick-Ennis services involve a change at 'the Junction' from a Dublin-Cork or Dublin-Tralee service onto a local train for the remaining 30 minutes of the journey.

Dublin to Galway

Stations served – Dublin Heuston, Sallins and Naas, Newbridge, Kildare, Monasterevin, Portarlington, Tullamore, Clara, Athlone, Ballinasloe, Woodlawn, Attymon, Athenry, Oranmore and Galway Ceannt

The present route, built by the GS&WR in competition with the MGWR, leaves the Cork main line just after Portarlington. The River Shannon is crossed at Athlone. Athenry, the second last station before Galway, became a junction once again in 2010 with the reopening of the line to Limerick and will do so again if the planned reopening of the line to Tuam proceeds in accordance with Transport 21. In February 2011 planning permission was obtained for a station at Oranmore and opened 28 July 2013. All services are operated by 22000 Class railcars.

As of 2015, thirteen of eighteen services operate with journey times of between 2 hours 10 minutes and 2 hours 20 minutes.[2]

Dublin to Tralee

Railway tracks stretch into the distance from the level crossing at one end of Farranfore station.
Stations served – Dublin Heuston, Portarlington, Portlaoise, Thurles, Limerick Junction, Charleville, Mallow, Banteer, Millstreet, Rathmore, Killarney, Farranfore, Tralee Casement

This relatively indirect route runs along what is in essence a branch line connected to the Cork–Dublin mainline at Mallow. Trains run to/from the south of Tralee. Since January 2007 there are a record nine trains in each direction a day between Mallow and Tralee, up from eight trains each way in the previous timetable, including an early morning commuter service between Killarney and Tralee. All services are operated by 22000 railcars, with the exception of the very early morning service from Tralee to Cork and some Sunday services (From Tralee to Cork via Mallow) which are operated by a 2-carriage 2600 Class Commuter set.

On this line Farranfore provides a direct connection with Kerry Airport.

Dublin to Waterford

Stations served – Dublin Heuston, Hazelhatch and Celbridge, Sallins and Naas, Newbridge, Kildare, Athy, Carlow, Muine Bheag (Bagenalstown), Kilkenny, Thomastown, Waterford Plunkett.

Since Kilkenny is a stub station, reversal is necessary. Non Passenger trains such as the DFDS Freight train from Ballina – Waterford avoid Kilkenny by using Lavistown loop which joins both lines going into Kilkenny.

As of 2015 journey times range from 1 hour 50 minutes to 2 hours 20 minutes, depending on number of stops.[3]

Dublin to Westport/Ballina

Stations served – Dublin Heuston, Newbridge, Kildare, Portarlington, Tullamore, Clara, Athlone, Roscommon, Castlerea, Ballyhaunis, Claremorris, Manulla Junction, (Foxford, Ballina) or (Castlebar, Westport).

The line is currently served primarily by a 22000 Class DMU on Dublin – Westport. On the Manulla Junction – Ballina section a 2800 Class diesel railcar operates.

Dublin to Arklow/Rosslare Europort

Stations served – Dublin Connolly, Tara Street, Dublin Pearse, Dún Laoghaire Mallin, Bray Daly, Greystones, Kilcoole, Wicklow, Rathdrum, Arklow, Gorey, Enniscorthy, Wexford O'Hanrahan, Rosslare Strand, Rosslare Europort.

There are four end to end journeys in each direction Mondays to Fridays inclusive, the first of which from Rosslare Europort extends beyond Dublin to Dundalk. An early morning Gorey to Connolly commuter service which, on its evening return, extends to Wexford also operates. On Saturdays and Sundays there are three end to end journeys each way plus a Gorey to Dundalk Commuter service. The 16:37 Dublin Connolly to Rosslare Europort Mondays to Fridays journey offers connectional opportunities into ships to Wales and France.

Dublin to Sligo

Stations served – Dublin Connolly, Drumcondra, Maynooth, Kilcock, Enfield, Mullingar, Edgeworthstown, Longford, Dromod, Carrick-on-Shannon, Boyle, Ballymote, Collooney, Sligo McDiarmada.

All services are operated by 22000 Class railcars with a service every 2 hours until 7pm.

Cork to Tralee

Stations served – Cork Kent, Mallow, Banteer, Millstreet, Rathmore, Killarney, Farranfore, Tralee Casement

This is a three times daily service with two trains departing in the morning and one in the evening. The service is run by 22000 Class.

Limerick to Waterford

Stations served – Limerick Colbert, Limerick Junction, Tipperary, Cahir, Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir and Waterford Plunkett.

The Limerick–Waterford route is the only true non-radial (from Dublin) route still open in Ireland that is not a branch line. The route was commenced in 1848 by the Waterford & Limerick Railway and finished in 1854.

Current timetabling requires passengers travelling from Limerick to Waterford to take two trains, transferring at Limerick Junction. As of January 2013 there are two services from Monday to Saturday between Waterford and Limerick Junction and the same number returning with no service on Sundays. While stated line speed is 50 mph the service is operated to a timetable reflecting 40 mph limits. Delays between the Limerick and Waterford section services can be lengthy resulting in end-to-end journey times between the cities of 2.5 hours on a journey of 76.5 track miles.


Stations served – Limerick Colbert, Sixmilebridge, Ennis, Gort, Ardrahan, Craughwell, Athenry, Oranmore and Galway Ceannt.

This service commenced 30 March 2010 with the reopening of the EnnisAthenry Line. Direct trains now travel from LimerickGalway with the Ennis Commuter services have been subsumed into these.

All of the new stations are unstaffed. Gort has 2 platforms with lifts, bridges, ticket machines and a loop while Sixmilebridge, Ardrahan & Craughwell have just one platform each. In Gort the signal cabin has been restored and relocated and there is a small depot for permanent way crew. This reopening is Phase One of the reopening of the Western Rail Corridor. It involves the relaying of 58 km of track, rebuilding bridges, installation of signalling systems, level crossing upgrades and building the stations. The journey time between Limerick and Galway is just under 2 hours and there are 5 trains each way daily. It is a long term objective to have three 3-car 22000 Class railcars to operate the line.

Republic of Ireland Commuter Routes

Dublin Suburban Rail

Mallow to Cork

Cobh to Cork

Midleton to Cork

Galway to Athenry

Limerick to Ennis

Stations served – Limerick Colbert, Sixmilebridge, Ennis

Limerick to Nenagh & Ballybrophy

Castleconnell Station, County Limerick
Stations served – Limerick Colbert, Castleconnell, Birdhill, Nenagh, Cloughjordan, Roscrea, Ballybrophy

The line branches from the Waterford line just outside Limerick at Killonan Junction. All trains on this line connect with Dublin trains at Ballybrophy.

Current services on the line consist of two return passenger trains a day from Limerick. Following a campaign by The Nenagh Rail Partnership founded by local politicians and community representatives and assisted by the Internet news group Irish Railway News, a market research survey was funded by local Government. The market research was carried out in the summer of 2005 and showed there existed a market for improved services on the line. As a result of this study IÉ has committed to allocating additional rolling stock to the line as part of its ongoing fleet replacement programme. This line is subject to many speed restrictions due to the need to replace several old sections of track.

In October 2007, following a meeting between Iarnród Éireann management and The Nenagh Rail Partnership, it was confirmed that the new commuter service will be introduced between Nenagh and Limerick on 1 September 2008. This was launched as planned on 1 September 2008.

Closure of Ballybrophy-Roscrea-Nenagh-Limerick line proposed

A January 2012 national newspaper article suggested that Irish Rail is expected to seek permission in the near future from the National Transport Authority to close the line.[4] However the announcement on 20 February 2012 of an enhanced timetable for the line means that a decision to close has been deferred pending the outcome of the service upgrade.[5]

Waterford to Rosslare (Closed)

Stations Served:Waterford Plunkett, Campile, Ballycullane, Wellingtonbridge, Bridgetown, Rosslare Strand, Rosslare Europort.

There was a single service each-way on the Waterford-Rosslare stretch, operated by 2700 Class railcars taking just over 1 hour. The original purpose of the service, providing a railway link to the cities of Waterford, Limerick (and Cork via Limerick Junction) was compromised in the end by poor connections to other services from Waterford.

The service closed for passenger services on 18 September 2010. Replacement transport consists of a revised schedule and routings on the existing Bus Éireann route 370.[6] Buses on the route are branded "370 Connect", to Waterford Bus Station which is a 5-minute walk from Waterford Railway Station.

The line is still open for stock transfers. 22000 Class and 29000 Class DMUs operated on the line on 5 November 2011. The annual weed sprayer train is still running as of 2015.

Northern Ireland Routes

Services in Northern Ireland are sparse in comparison to the Republic or other countries. A large railway network was severely curtailed in the 1950s and 1960s (in particular by the Ulster Transport Authority). The current situation includes suburban services to Larne, Newry and Bangor, as well as services to Derry. There is also a branch from Coleraine to Portrush.
On Northern Ireland Railways distances are quoted in miles and metres [2].

Belfast Suburban

Three suburban routes run on 20-minute frequencies in and out of Belfast Great Victoria Street railway station, these routes then pass through Belfast Central railway station before continuing onto destinations at Bangor, Derry, Larne and Newry.

Belfast to Derry

Stations served: Great Victoria Street, City Hospital, Botanic, Belfast Central, Yorkgate (partial service), Whiteabbey (partial service), Mossley West, Antrim, Ballymena, Cullybackey, Ballymoney, Coleraine, Castlerock, Bellarena, Derry.

The service to Derry has suffered greatly from a lack of funding over recent decades. The existing line is not continuously welded and has speed restrictions in parts. For some time the threat of closure hung over this route but its future was assured in December 2005 with a funding package of some £20 million. The same month saw the introduction of the new CAF railcars on the line and despite the fact that the service remained slower than the Derry-Belfast Ulsterbus service, the improvements saw a rise in passenger numbers to over 1 million per annum. However, these optimistic signs that the line would be retained and possibly upgraded rather than wound down, suffered a blow in 2007 when it was revealed that the £20 million earmarked had not been spent while there had been a £20 million overspend on the Belfast-Bangor line.[7] While the "Into the West"[8] rail lobby group had proposed extending the line cross border into County Donegal to Letterkenny and then on to Sligo thus releasing EU funding[9] Currently, the Department has put a plan in place for Regional Development, for relaying of the track between Derry and Coleraine by 2013, which will include a passing loop, and the introduction of two new train sets. The £86 million plan will reduce the journey time between Belfast and Derry by 30 minutes and allow commuter trains to arrive in Derry before 0900 for the first time. There are also calls for Train halts to be located at Limavady, Ballykelly and possibly Eglinton. Daithí McKay MLA has called for a halt to be reopened at Dunloy between Ballymena and Ballymoney.

Coleraine to Portrush

Stations served: Coleraine, University of Ulster, Dhu Varren, Portrush.

Belfast to Larne Harbour

Stations – Belfast Great Victoria Street, City Hospital, Botanic, Belfast Central, Yorkgate, Whiteabbey, Jordanstown, Greenisland, Trooperslane, Clipperstown, Carrickfergus, Downshire, Whitehead, Ballycarry, Magheramorne, Glynn, Larne Town, Larne Harbour.

Cross – Border Routes

Belfast to Dublin / Dublin to Belfast

Stations served – Belfast Central, Lisburn, Portadown, Newry, Dundalk Clark, Drogheda MacBride, Dublin Connolly

This cross border service, named Enterprise, is jointly owned and run by Northern Ireland Railways and IÉ. Despite having some of the most modern InterCity rolling stock on the island, it has been dogged by numerous problems. An historical problem on this route has been disruption to services caused by security alerts (devices on the line, hoax devices, threats and warnings). These continue to the present day.

The punctuality on this service remains poor for other reasons also. The InterCity route, despite being mostly high quality continuous welded rail, is shared with suburban services outside both Belfast and Dublin.

A further problem was due to the locomotive and rolling stock arrangements. Unlike most other locomotive-hauled rolling stock in Ireland, generator vans were not part of the train – even the DVTs did not supply power. Thus the General Motors-built locomotives had to supply head-end power for lighting and heating throughout the train. Although many types of locomotive are well designed for this purpose, these particular locomotives had struggled under the extra strain. The wear on the locos and time out of service were unusually high. On at least two occasions locomotives had burst into flames while shuttling along the route. To avoid further damage, four Mark 3 Generator Vans entered service in September 2012.

A more recent problem was the collapse of the Malahide Viaduct,[10] which temporarily stopped all Enterprise services from Dublin to Belfast for 3 months in 2009. The viaduct was repaired and the line re-opened in November 2009.[11]

Following the extension of platform 2 to accommodate the longer Enterprise, Lisburn has recently been added as an additional stop on some services.


The following Freight services operate in Ireland :

Rail freight has been in a major decline in Ireland for the past 10 years.

  • IÉ closed its container rail freight business on 29 July 2005, saying that the sector had accounted for 10% of its freight business, but 70% of its losses.
  • Container freight levels had dropped to c.35 containers on three trains per day.[12] Yet Iarnród Éireann estimated that a minimum of 18 40-foot containers was needed for a commercially viable trainload. The impact of this will be about 40 more lorries a day, described by Iarnród Éireann as a 'drop in the ocean' when compared to the 10,000 lorries entering Dublin Port every day. Nevertheless, the annual impact of this will shift about 70 million tonne-kilometres to the road network.
  • In July 2006, the Container Gantries at Mallow and Sligo were removed, Limerick's Gantry yard is now a car park and the bulk of Cork's freight yard is primed for development.

Major Freight services lost includes

  • Ammonia Trains from Shelton Abbey, Wicklow – Cork (due to closure of fertiliser plant)
  • Bagged Cement Nationwide
  • Beer Kegs Nationwide
  • Bell Liner from Mayo – Waterford
  • Gypsum from Kingscourt – Dublin
  • Bulk Cement from Platin (near Drogheda) and Castlemungret (near Limerick) cement factories to cement silos at Sligo Quay, Athenry, Cabra (Dublin), Cork, Waterford, Tullamore and Belfast

Other losses included: Liners, Fertilisers, Grain, Tar, Scrap Metal, Molasses and Coal. The last bulk cement flow to operate in Ireland (Castlemungret – Waterford) ended in December 2009 along with the Kilmastulla Quarry – Castlemungret Shale traffic, despite making profits in the region of €1.3 million in 2006.

Recent development show a continuing interest in at least limited freight traffic, with an agreement being struck with Coillte to increase timber trains from Ballina to Belview from three to four weekly. This may reflect the failure of the railway to dispose of its surplus Class 201 locomotives made surplus by the retirement of the Mark 3 coach fleet.

Bord na Móna operates an extensive 1,930 km (1,199 mi) narrow gauge railway. This is one of the largest industrial rail networks in Europe and is completely separate from Ireland's passenger rail system operated by Iarnród Éireann. It is used to transport peat from harvesting plots to processing plants and power stations of the Electricity Supply Board.

Heritage Railways

The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland based in Whitehead, County Antrim runs preserved steam trains on its own private line and occasionally operates on the main lines all over Ireland. The Irish Traction Group runs preserved diesel locomotives but does not have a private line of its own. It operates on the main line when required. The Downpatrick & County Down Railway is the only self-contained full-size heritage railway in Ireland, though several short narrow gauge lines also exist. Bord na Móna (the Irish Peat Board) operates over 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of 3 ft (914 mm)[13] lines at locations where peat is commercially cut and processed.


Heavy rail Dublin City Centre Resignalling

Increase ability of Irish Rail to run 12 to 20 trains per hour in both directions through the Howth Junction to Grand Canal Dock line, which caters for Howth DARTs, Malahide DARTs, Northern Commuter trains, Belfast Enterprise services, Sligo InterCity and Maynooth Commuter services, as well as other services in the Connolly to Grand Canal Dock area.[14] This project began in March 2015 and is currently underway. It is expected to be completed by late 2016 or early 2017.

Heavy rail to Navan

Extend existing Commuter services to M3 Parkway railway station to Navan with the following stations : Dunshaughlin, Kilmessan, Navan town centre and a further station on the northern edge of Navan – Navan North.[15]

DART Underground

Railway reopening in Northern Ireland

Generally there is potential to reopen railway lines in Northern Ireland.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "New Rail Timetable for 2013– Iarnród Éireann". 15 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "New Rail Timetable for 2013– Iarnród Éireann". 15 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "New Rail Timetable for 2013– Iarnród Éireann". 15 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Seán McCárthaigh (2 January 2012). "Iarnród Éireann may close rail service amid falling demand". Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  5. ^ "Nenagh, Limerick and Commuter service improvements – REVISED SCHEDULE, FROM 20TH MARCH – Iarnród Éireann". 16 March 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Belfast-Bangor line". BBC News. 22 March 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "Into the West". Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  9. ^ EU funding
  10. ^ "Bridge on Dublin-Belfast Line Collapses". 21 August 2009. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  11. ^ "Dublin-Belfast Rail ReOpens". Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "Historical debates". Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Bord na Mona
  14. ^ "Investment in Iarnród Éireann". 31 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Investment in Iarnród Éireann". Irish Rail. 31 January 2015. 
  16. ^ "New lines proposed in Northern Ireland rail plan". 3 May 2014. 

External links

  • Main Website of Iarnrod Éireann (Irish Rail)
  • Main website of Northern Ireland Railways
  • Railway Procurement Agency
  • Ireland – Rail Freight expands despite recession (Railway People 11 February 2011), retrieved 13 March 2011
  • Clonsilla-M3 Feasibility Report (Irish Rail)
  • Platform For Change (Dublin Transportation Office)
  • Strategic Rail Review 2003 (Department of Transport)
  • Rail Users Ireland – Ireland's National Rail User organisation(previously Platform11 – Ireland's National Rail Users Lobby)
  • Irish Railway News -reporting on all aspects of irish railways
  • Ireland's railway built heritage
  • Eiretrains – Irish Railways Past & Present
  • Western Rail Corridor – Pictures
  • YouTube video of IWT liner in Dublin:
  • YouTube video of Tara Mines mineral ore train:
  • YouTube video of Tara Mines mineral ore train:
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