EUROPE: A Strategic Rail Review is to be commissioned to examine the potential for enhancing and expanding the island of Ireland’s rail networks, the republic’s Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Northern Ireland’s Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon have announced.
The ‘all-island’ review will consider how the rail network can improve sustainable connectivity between major cities, enhance regional accessibility and support balanced regional development. It will also look at the potential for increased use of the network to carry freight, and examine the feasibility of operating at ‘high or higher’ speeds.
The Department of Transport and Department for Infrastructure have jointly issued an OJEU notice inviting expressions of interest from external consultants to undertake the review. The consultants will be supported by key stakeholders including the Commission for Rail Regulation, the National Transport Authority, Iarnród Éireann and Translink.
‘I’m a firm believer in the potential of rail in supporting social and economic development and the environmental sustainability of our transport system’, said Ryan on April 7. ‘This year is designated as the European Year of Rail and I’m delighted to launch this strategic review of rail here in Ireland. I’m particularly pleased that we’ll undertake this review on an all-island basis, working with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive. The review will look at how rail can help better connect cities and regions across the island and will complement the investment we already plan in our commuter rail networks.’
Suggesting that rail has ‘massive untapped potential to deliver multiple benefits across our island’, Mallon said that ‘since coming into office, I have been clear that it is my priority to address regional imbalance, tackle the climate crisis and better connect communities across Ireland.
‘Now, more than ever our citizens deserve ambition in government and we need to take this chance for change to build back better for all peoples across Ireland. This is an ambitious piece of work that will help inform our decision making and investment in our rail network for years to come. It’s an exciting start of a journey, many have been waiting for.’
Welcoming the announcement, Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson called for a feasibility study into an extension of the network to Letterkenny and beyond, improving access to the northwest region. ‘It’s vital that on the back of this review, we see real delivery on improving our rail line and connecting our island through our trains’, she told local media.