PEACEPLUS Investment Boost for Cross-Border Rail

Monday, 8 April 2024
Cross Border Trains

Cross Border Trains

Cross-border intercity rail services between Belfast and Dublin are set to benefit from a €165million (£141.9million) investment from the PEACEPLUS Programme

The PEACEPLUS funding will support a major programme to transform the cross-border “Enterprise” train service, paving the way for an hourly timetable between Belfast and Dublin. This programme involves replacing the existing Enterprise trains with brand new trains by the end of this decade, allowing for an hourly timetable and faster journey times between Dublin and Belfast.

The PEACEPLUS Programme represents a funding partnership between the European Union, the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive. The Programme which has a value of €1.14BN, is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Funding is also being provided for the ‘Enterprise Fleet Replacement Programme’ from two Government Departments – the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland and the Department of Transport in Ireland.

Jointly operated by Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnród Éireann, the Enterprise train service has provided a vital public transport link along the Belfast - Dublin economic corridor, facilitating cross-border mobility between cities, towns, people and businesses for more than 75 years.

The ‘Enterprise Fleet Replacement Programme’ will see the current Enterprise fleet of four train-sets replaced with eight new, modern and sustainable train-sets. Designed to evolve as both jurisdictions move towards a fully electrified cross-border rail corridor over the coming decades, the new trains will support goals of net zero carbon emissions. They will offer improved accessibility and passenger experience, with an hourly service and journey times reduced to at least 1 hour 55 minutes between Dublin and Belfast. 

The procurement process for the new train-sets is expected to be complete over the coming year, with a view to the new Enterprise trains operating from 2029.  The new trains will be designed to run initially on electric and battery power on part of the Dublin to Belfast route and can be converted into fully electric operation in the future. By providing for a better and more sustainable train service between Dublin and Belfast, this new fleet is consistent with the recommendations of the draft All-Island Strategic Rail Review which was undertaken by both Departments. 

Welcoming today’s announcement,

European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira said:

“I am satisfied and happy that the EU plays an important role in this new major investment by the Peace Plus Programme.  The thrust of the programme has always been about transformation, regeneration and creating thriving communities.  The EUR 165 million investment in improving the cross-border rail service between Belfast and Dublin by the Enterprise Fleet Replacement Programme transforms these ambitions into reality.

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. 

I would also like to underline the constructive, creative and collaborative approach between the Irish and UK Governments, the Northern Ireland Executive, SEUPB and the European Union, which are all vital components in ensuring the success of the Peace Plus Programme.”

Dept. For Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd said: 

“This is an exciting time for rail travel. The new fleet will pave the way for the Enterprise service to become the first electrified inter-city service on the island which will support our decarbonisation commitments.

The investment will improve the experience of people travelling by train and encourage others to use these services. By doing so you will be playing your part in our shared journey to net zero as well as enjoying the many benefits to be gained by rail travel.”

Dept. Transport Minister Eamon Ryan TD commented,

“I welcome this significant investment in the Enterprise Fleet Replacement Programme.  The flagship Enterprise service is a very visible and well-known symbol of North-South cooperation and this replacement programme is a key priority of both Governments. 

The programme will significantly improve accessibility between the two largest cities on the island through increased service frequency and a faster journey time. 

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 funding for this programme under the PEACEPLUS programme and from both Government Departments demonstrates the positive impact cooperation has on meeting our shared goals of a cleaner, greener, interconnected all-island future.”

The Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said:

I am so pleased by the news of the fantastic investment that is going into the Enterprise Fleet Replacement Programme through the PEACEPLUS programme.

The transformation of cross-border rail services between Belfast and Dublin is going to create unique and exciting opportunities for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland alike. We should not underestimate the impact that this infrastructure will have on the economic growth of the region, by ensuring there are the right conditions in place to thrive, prosper and be the best place in the world to invest.

A key theme of PEACEPLUS is collaboration and partnership - through this programme I look forward to working with the Irish Government, Northern Ireland Executive and SEUPB to ensure that our shared ambitions for peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties of Ireland are realised. The UK’s £730 million investment into PEACEPLUS was only the first step to building on these ambitions.”

SEUPB Chief Executive Gina McIntyre said:

“This €165m investment in cross-border rail services aligns closely to a key ambition of the PEACEPLUS Programme, to support a sustainable and better-connected future. 

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.

Peace and prosperity are two sides of the same coin, and this ambitious and forward-looking project will deliver on both of those aspirations by enhancing the economic viability of the region, while improving the social connectivity between people and place.”

The PEACEPLUS Programme has been designed to promote peace and prosperity across Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland, and has a total value of €1.14 billion, to be delivered over the next five years. Alongside sustainable transport, the Programme will support a wide range of sectors including health and social care, the protection of the environment, rural regeneration, smart towns and villages, local regeneration and mental health services.

PEACEPLUS is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body and is funded in partnership by the European Union, the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive.

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