The Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan T.D., and the Minister for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland, Nichola Mallon MLA, has launched an all-island Strategic Rail Review.
This Strategic Rail Review will consider how the rail network on the island of Ireland can improve sustainable connectivity between the major cities, enhance regional accessibility and support balanced regional development. In addition, the Review will consider the feasibility of high- higher speeds on the network and whether there is a potential to increase use of the network for freight.
Minister Ryan stated: “I’m a firm believer in the potential of rail in supporting social and economic development and the environmental sustainability of our transport system. 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.”
The Strategic Rail Review reflects an Irish Government commitment under the New Decade, New Approach agreement of the Irish and UK Governments and will examine the potential for high- / higher speed rail on the network.
Minister Mallon said: “I am delighted to announce this Strategic All-island Rail Review that will explore the opportunities to better connect communities and open up opportunities for our island economy. Travel by rail is an issue I am very passionate about and I believe it has massive untapped potential to deliver multiple benefits across our island. 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.
The All Island Strategic Rail Review will allow us to consider our network across this island to view how we can improve it for everyone. Building on our commitments in New Decade New Approach to progress a spine of connectivity, this ambitious review, in partnership, will look at opportunities to enhance rail across our island. 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.”
The Strategic Rail Review will be delivered by external consultants and overseen by the Department of Transport in co-operation with the Department for Infrastructure, supported by key stakeholders including the Commission for Rail Regulation, the National Transport Authority, Iarnród Éireann and Translink.
A Request for Tender will be published in the Official Journal for European Union seeking expressions of interest to conduct the Strategic Rail Review.
The Request for Tender reflects the agreement reached at October’s North South Ministerial Council – Transport Meeting which noted the Department of Transport and the Department for Infrastructure would ‘further develop draft terms of reference for a proposed study of rail speeds, to ensure the finalised terms of reference take sufficient cognisance of the need for balanced regional development, particularly in relation to connectivity with the North-West.’
The overall objective of the Review is to examine the role of rail in supporting relevant policy objectives in both Ireland and Northern Ireland with particular emphasis on achieving climate change objectives. The Review shall strategically review the rail network on the island of Ireland in relation to improving sustainable connectivity between the major cities, enhancing regional accessibility (including to the North West) and supporting balanced regional development and considering the potential to increase rail freight. The Reviewshall consider the potential scope for improved rail services along the various existing, or future potential, corridors of the network and will include consideration of high-level design and operational proposals for identified corridors as appropriate.
The publication of the Request for Tender marks the launch of the procurement process and it is expected that a contract will be awarded, and work commence, by early summer.
The timeline for the study itself will be determined by the work programme submitted by tenderers; however, it is a requirement that the Study take no longer than 12 months in total. This timeframe is reflective of the extensive and significant work envisaged to be undertaken.