Thursday, 5 May 2022
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I welcome the opportunity to discuss this important topic with Senators on behalf of the Minister for Transport. I understand that the Senators' question relates to improving the service and rolling stock on the Rosslare-Dublin rail line. I have been advised Iarnród Éireann's operational fleet is currently fully deployed on scheduled services, in line with the prevailing passenger demand. The current capacity on the rail network is primarily based on demand levels pre-Covid, when rapid growth in demand resulted in the use of 100% of larnród Éireann's operational fleet at peak times. I am also given to understand there are currently four services each way on the Rosslare-Dublin rail line on weekdays and three services each way on weekend days.
Further, the National Development Plan 2021-2030, which was launched by the Government in October 2021, will see the introduction of additional public transport infrastructure which will help to relieve congestion on the network while providing for new rolling stock to result in greater capacity for Iarnród Éireann, increasing passenger numbers into the future. An initial order of 95 electric and battery-electric carriages for the DART+ fleet was placed in December 2021, with up to 75 carriages to be ordered over the coming decade. It is expected the first 95 carriages will arrive from mid-2024, entering service on the rail network from 2025. These 95 carriages will comprise 30 electric carriages, which will be deployed on existing DART services, and 65 battery-electric carriages, which will be deployed on the northern commuter services. This additional rolling stock will free up existing commuter and intercity carriages for use on other routes on the rail network.
As the Senators will be aware, the strategic rail review, undertaken in co-operation with the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland, will inform the development of interurban, interregional rail on the island of Ireland over the coming decades. This will be one of the most significant reviews of the rail network on the island in many years, providing a framework to develop an improved rail network for our future. The review will consider the scope for improved rail services along various existing and potential corridors of the network, including the potential afforded by disused and closed lines such as the western rail corridor. This report is due to be finalised in quarter 4 of this year.
I will convey both Senators' views to the Minister.