Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú says he is very pleased that Irish Rail are looking at hourly trains for the cross border Enterprise rail service, as well as part-time commuter tickets in the post-pandemic working world.
The Louth TD raised the issues at this week’s meeting of the Oireachtas Transport Committee where Irish Rail chief executive Jim Meade was one of the witnesses.
Deputy Ó Murchú said he wanted to know what plans Irish Rail had for the Dublin-Belfast rail service.
And he wanted clarity on commuter-based pricing for tickets, where people will only have to travel to Dublin for work a couple of times a week.
He said: ‘I believe they should still be able to avail of commuter-based pricing, be it for one month or six months, taking into account that they might be travelling only two or three days per week’.
In response to Deputy Ó Murchú, Mr Meade said: ‘I am happy to report that there was a lot of close and detailed collaboration between us in Iarnród Éireann and Translink.
‘We have a group working between the two companies looking at enhancing the Enterprise service. We are working on plans to move to an hourly service and we have been talking to the Special EU Programmes Body, SEUPB.
‘It has a funding pot and we have put to it a proposal as to how we would replace the Enterprise fleet and enhance the service.
We are putting a plan to the SEUPB for a fleet of nine trains and proposing that the SEUPB fund it, which it is very interested in doing.
‘It is still at the planning stage, but we expect the SEUPB to assist us with that funding in order to move to an hourly service.
‘We hope to deliver a complete new fleet in conjunction with Translink, probably in 2026 or 2027, to go to a full hourly service with reduced journey times. Our infrastructure south of the Border is in reasonably good shape. It is reasonably well maintained’.
On the issue of commuter-based pricing, Mr Meade said: ‘The pricing structure is very much an issue for the NTA, but we are looking at the issue with the NTA.
'We are already talking to it and discussions are ongoing about what the post-Covid travel patterns will be and what the pricing structure of tickets will be, moving away from the traditional monthly and annual tickets that were used heretofore.
'It is a work in progress between us and the NTA’.