IE 231 heads 1120 Dub - Belf Enterprise 010519

Photo: Tony Miles

A Dublin - Belfast train running through the northern suburbs of the Irish capital, where this cross-border flow must share tracks with electrified DART commuter rail services.

IRELAND: National railway Iarnród Éireann is planning a major uplift in its inter-city and inter-regional services in the second half of the year, including a boost in frequency to the cross-border Enterprise service linking Dublin and Belfast.

The majority of the changes are to be implemented from August 25, having been agreed with Ireland’s National Transport Authority. Extra trains will be introduced on IÉ’s Galway, Waterford, and Cobh & Midleton routes.

At the northern end of the Belfast – Dublin route, Enterprise trains are expected to start using Belfast’s new Grand Central station from the same date. This will be followed on October 7 by an expansion of the cross-border service from two-hourly intervals to an hourly frequency, supported by financing from the Shared Island Fund. The hourly service will operate from Mondays to Saturdays, and will provide pre-09.00 arrivals into both cities.

To operate the enhanced service, the existing four seven-car MkIV loco-hauled trainsets will be supplemented by two six-car 22000 Class ICR multiple-units from Iarnród Éireann and one six-car Class 3000 DMU from Translink NI Railways. The ICR units include an area with Premier Class seating and a galley which will enable a catering service to be provided.

Meanwhile, tenders have been called for a new fleet of eight eight-car trainsets, with aim of introducing a modern fleet on the route from 2029. The next generation Enterprise trains were initially described as tri-modes, but Railway Gazette International understands that they will primarily be electro-diesel multiple-units, fitted with small traction batteries to reduce emissions at stations and depots. The trains will remain largely dependent on their diesel powerpacks in the early years, pending a firm decision on how or whether to electrify more of the route between the two cities.

Ramping up of the Enterprise frequency will have implications for other services using the main line north of Dublin, and particularly the electrified sections shared with DART suburban services. Users have been presented with two options for off-peak service patterns, each requiring trade-offs between overall provision, stopping patterns and journey times.

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Full-size Dublin map available in our Maps & Data section.

A consultation launched by IÉ explains that ‘in recent years, enhancement in levels of service on DART & Commuter routes has intensified demand for track space at [Dublin] Connolly station. Several corridors converge to serve the central Dublin stations — Connolly, Tara Street and Pearse.

‘At peak times, minor delays to individual trains can result in long lasting subsequent service delays, due to the congested nature of the infrastructure. With the introduction of an hourly Enterprise service as part of this timetable change and changed travel patterns in this post Covid period, a number of timetable alterations are proposed to improve traffic flows around the Connolly area and to improve service punctuality.’

The proposed changes would introduce a more regular service pattern on these routes, allowing better spacing of trains on the cross-city link between Connolly and Pearse stations, and the use of turnbacks at Grand Canal Dock station would be increased in the peaks. IÉ anticipates that these changes would provide performance benefits ‘to all routes around the city centre area’ and reduce the knock-on impact of minor delays.