IRELAND: The government announced on March 13 that it would not be seeking an extension of its current derogation from EU legislation opening access to the rail market.

National railway Iarnród Éireann's only international link is with the UK's Northern Ireland Railways, which has a similar derogation.

The government is to consult on how best to restructure IÉ before the derogation expires on March 14 2013.

IÉ is currently a vertically-integrated state railway, however European rules will require the creation of a separate body to determine capacity allocation and access charges for the network.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he sees this as an opportunity to encourage greater efficiency and transparency. 'Ireland is the only country in the EU which has been allowed to retain a single operator which regulates, operates and maintains its mainline rail network', said Varadkar. 'European law supports greater competition and freer access to the rail network sector across Europe, principally in the area of freight. I would like Ireland to be well prepared to avail of any such opportunities in future.'

  • The Northern Ireland Administration has not requested that the UK government apply to extend its derogation. Both railways are 1 600 mm gauge and isolated from the wider European network by the Irish Sea.