Dublin-Belfast train to take less than two hours and run hourly after multimillion investment

Funding totalling €165 million towards the scheme announced by Peace Plus programme

Journey times on the main Belfast to Dublin train are to be cut to under two hours following a multimillion-euro investment that aims to transform the cross-Border service.

An hourly timetable will operate, while the existing fleet of four Enterprise trains will be replaced with eight modern and sustainable trains initially running on electricity and battery power.

Covering a distance of 180km, the first Enterprise seven-carriage steam train travelled from Belfast to Dublin on August 11th, 1947.

Journey times are currently between two hours and five minutes and 2¼ hours, with stops in Portadown, Newry, Dundalk and Drogheda.

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A service leaves Dublin or Belfast roughly every two hours.

Enterprise journey times will be reduced to “at least one hour 55 minutes” between the two cities as part of the new project.

Funding totalling €165 million towards the scheme was announced on Tuesday by the Peace Plus programme, which is provided by the European Union, the UK and the Irish Government and the Stormont Executive.

The development comes two months after the Government pledged €12.5 million as part of the Shared Island initiative to provide hourly train services between Belfast and Dublin during peak times – with the hope of introducing the new timetable next year.

The Enterprise service is jointly operated by Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnród Éireann and a 2029 target has been set for the new fleet to begin running, with a move towards a “fully electrified cross-Border rail corridor over the coming decades”.

It aims to support goals of net-zero carbon emissions.

Funding is also being provided for the Enterprise fleet replacement programme by two government departments, Stormont’s department for infrastructure and the Government’s Department of Transport.

A procurement process is expected to be completed over the coming year.

Welcoming the announcement, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira said the thrust of the programme had always been “transformation, regeneration and creating thriving communities”.

“The investment will bring concrete benefits for the local communities. Citizens and businesses will have easier and quicker access to Dublin and Belfast and be more connected. This will help the local communities grow and create opportunities, while delivering on the net-zero carbon emissions goal,” she said.

Stormont’s department for infrastructure minister, John O’Dowd, said the new fleet would “pave the way for the Enterprise service to become the first electrified intercity service on the island which will support our decarbonisation commitments”.

Department for Transport Minister Eamon Ryan TD also welcomed the initiative.

“This is another indication of the ambition we have to put the island of Ireland on track for a new age of rail, connecting more cities and towns and opening up quality rail service to more people.”

The Peace Plus programme has a total value of €1.14 billion and is designed to promote peace and prosperity across the North and the Border areas over the next five years.

In addition to sustainable transport, it supports activities linked to health and social care, the protection of the environment, rural regeneration, smart towns and villages, local regeneration and mental health services.

Northern Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the “fantastic investment” in the Enterprise fleet would lead to the transformation of cross-Border rail services.

Special EU Programmes Body chief executive Gina McIntyre said: “We know that transport is a crucial economic driver as it connects businesses with markets and facilitates employee mobility, as well as providing access to education, health and leisure services. This major investment in the transformation of the Enterprise service will serve as a catalyst for regeneration and economic growth for all areas along the Dublin-to-Belfast economic corridor.”

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