All-Island Rail Plan Unveiled by Ireland’s Governments to Transform Railway Connectivity

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The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland governments have jointly announced an ambitious €35bn (£29.2bn) All-Island Rail Review. It is aimed at modernising and expanding the railway network across the island. The comprehensive plan is developed by Arup on behalf of Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure and the Republic of Ireland’s Department of Transport. It is set to bring significant advancements to the rail system.

Key features of the plan include the construction of new high-speed rail lines connecting Dublin and Belfast. It will also feature improved connections between major cities and towns on both sides of the border. Additionally, the proposal involves the electrification of existing lines, the introduction of new rolling stock, and the establishment of new stations.

An essential aspect of the All-Island Rail Review is its potential to boost the economy and employment. The project is projected to create up to 40,000 jobs during construction. Furthermore, it will have an additional 10,000 permanent positions expected upon completion. Moreover, the plan’s implementation is predicted to reduce carbon emissions by a significant 1.5 million tonnes annually. Thus, it will enhance air quality and contributing to decarbonisation efforts.

Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Climate, Environment & Communications, Eamon Ryan, emphasised the historical significance of this initiative. He stated, “In the 1920s, Ireland had one of the best rail networks in the world. We’re reviving that network with new lines for people and freight, half-hourly frequencies, higher speeds, electrification, and an all-island approach.”

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All-Island Rail Project’s Scope

The goals of the plan are comprehensive, aiming to improve all-island connectivity between major cities such as Belfast, Cork, Derry/Londonderry, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford, while also bolstering connections between other towns and cities on both sides of the border. The plan seeks to enhance regional and rural accessibility and encourage sustainable mobility. It will also foster economic activity to achieve balanced rural and urban economic growth.

The All-Island Rail Review proposes 30 key recommendations encompassing various aspects of rail development. These recommendations range from electrifying inter-city lines using battery or hydrogen trains for shorter journeys to expanding certain areas to double or four-track sections to increase capacity and frequencies on specific routes. The plan stops short of suggesting a high-speed route due to cost concerns. However, it promises substantial upgrades to regional and rural lines. These include new alignments in congested corridors and increased line speeds of at least 120 km/h.

With the unveiling of the €35bn All-Island Rail Plan, Ireland’s governments have set forth an ambitious vision for the future of rail transportation on the island, promising improved connectivity, environmental benefits, and economic growth. The proposal now awaits further consideration and support as it aims to reshape the rail network into a more efficient, sustainable, and accessible system.