IRELAND: Despite the economic downturn and drastic cutbacks in public finances, Iarnród Éireann is going ahead with a plan to order 432 EMU cars for Dublin's DART suburban services at a cost of nearly €900m.

This will be the largest order for coaches placed by the national railway, which has drawn up a list of possible suppliers and plans to make a final selection next year. The 1 600 mm gauge stock will be delivered in two phases, with the first arriving in 2011-12.

The government's Transport 21 plan has enabled Iarnród Éireann to plan well ahead, aligning rolling stock orders with planned extensions including the 5·2 km interconnector tunnel from Dublin's docklands to Heuston.

Annual passenger numbers on DART and other commuter services in the greater Dublin area are predicted to reach 100 million by 2015, a significant increase on 35 million at present.