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Cross-border hourly Dublin-Belfast train service could be a reality next year

A cross-border hourly train service linking Dublin and Belfast could be in place by the end of next year.

Discussing the All-Ireland Strategic Rail Review at the Oireachtas transport committee, Irish Rail chief Jim Meade said moving to a high-speed hourly service linking the two cities and Cork is in the pipeline.

He added: “The hourly service is more than ambition, it’s something we’re going to deliver over time.

“I have been working with Chris Conway [chief executive] of Translink and looking at how we would, at least in the peak, bring in an hourly service in the morning and evening as we wait until we develop the full service for 2027.

“We have some extra fleet coming in the back in this year.

“We’re looking to try and allocate some of them to allow us to do a morning and evening peak initially.

“There is a requirement to get people into Dublin early morning and then out later in the evening.

“We should be able to do that probably by the back end of next year, it might be a bit sooner.” He said work would then begin to replace the Enterprise fleet and introduce a full hourly service all day from about 2026 to 2027.

Irish Rail’s target is to cut the journey between Dublin and Belfast to 90 minutes. It is currently just over two hours.

Mr Meade said there are plans to upgrade existing lines to 200kph operation. He said this is something which is “feasible and achievable”, and would strengthen journey time competitiveness significantly.

Plans to upgrade train lines to 200kph would serve the main routes only.

Mr Meade added: “We all suffer from the same issue. We would like to get on at the station of our preference and be non-stop to the station of our preference.

“If you do that, you’ll get there in an hour but

obviously we serve a lot of intermediate stations as well.

“The ambition is, that certainly on the Belfast to Cork corridor, we will achieve those kinds of speeds and an equivalent improvement on the branch lines.

“The principle we are working to is that we bring all our major cities to under two hours. We’re currently on the two-hour mark, depending on which service you get. But the

ambition is to continue to improve services incrementally to get all the cities under two hours.”

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