All-Island Strategic Rail Review: Transforming Rail Connectivity and Sustainability

In a landmark move towards advancing sustainable transportation and fostering greater connectivity, the Department of Transport and the Department for Infrastructure have jointly unveiled their Draft Report for Strategic Environmental Assessment Consultation as part of the All-Island Strategic Rail Review. The report presented and prepared by ARUP presents a package of recommendations that promises to revolutionise the rail network across Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Short Term and Decarbonization:

The heart of the recommendations lies in short-term and decarbonization efforts. To significantly reduce carbon emissions and create a more environmentally friendly rail network, the following key interventions have been proposed:

  1. Electrification of Major Routes: Electrifying intercity and commuter services between Belfast-Bangor, Belfast-Drogheda, Dublin-Cork, Portarlington-Galway, Limerick Junction-Limerick, and Kildare-Waterford will not only reduce emissions but also enhance the efficiency of rail operations.
  2. Speed Upgrades: Upgrading core and some regional intercity lines to achieve speeds of 160km/h (100mph) will improve journey times and encourage more passengers to choose rail travel.
  3. Frequency Enhancements: Implementing one train per hour on intercity routes between Dublin and Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Waterford will increase accessibility, making rail a more viable option for daily commuters.
  4. Regional Connectivity: Introducing one train per two hours on regional routes, including Galway-Limerick, Limerick-Cork, Limerick-Ballybrophy, Dublin-Sligo, Dublin-Westport/Ballina, and Greystones-Rosslare Europort, will better integrate smaller towns and cities into the rail network.
  5. New Services: Establishing direct services between Belfast and Portrush, and introducing passenger services to the Limerick-Foynes line and a spur to Shannon Airport, will enhance connectivity and boost tourism.
  6. Reinstating Discontinued Lines: The reinstatement of the Lisburn-Antrim line, including a station at Belfast International Airport, will open up new travel possibilities for passengers.

Intercity Upgrades:

To transform intercity travel and reduce journey times, the All-Island Strategic Rail Review proposes the following interventions:

  1. New High-Speed Lines: Constructing a new 200km/h (125mph) line from Belfast to Newry via Hillsborough, Dromore, and Banbridge, and another from Drogheda to Clongriffin with four-tracking from Clongriffin to Connolly/Spencer Dock, will revolutionize rail connectivity.
  2. Airport Connectivity: Enhancing transportation to airports, including a spur to Dublin Airport from Clongriffin, will make rail travel more accessible and convenient for air passengers.
  3. Cross-Dublin Tunnel: The construction of a cross-Dublin tunnel from the north of Spencer Dock to Heuston, with connections for DART and MetroLink at several stations in Dublin City Centre, will streamline rail operations and provide efficient transfers.
  4. Enhanced Services: Creating a short link between Maynooth and Adamstown will improve service efficiency and separate longer-distance trains from DART services.
  5. Electrification and Double Tracking: Investing in a new double-tracked electrified alignment between Hazelhatch and Portarlington, along with a link to the Kildare-Waterford line, and double tracking from Dublin to Mullingar, Athlone, Kilkenny, and between Galway and Athenry, will modernize the rail network.

Regional and Rural Packages:

The All-Island Strategic Rail Review recognizes the importance of inclusivity and aims to extend the benefits of a transformed rail network to regional and rural areas. The recommendations include:

  1. Enhanced Northern Connectivity: Building a new 160km/h (100mph) dual-tracked electrified line between Portadown and Derry~Londonderry will bring much-needed development to the region.
  2. Improved Northern Links: Introducing a new single-track line between DerryLondonderry and Letterkenny and establishing new stations between DerryLondonderry and Coleraine, including a spur to Limavady, will improve connectivity.
  3. Eastern Enhancements: The addition of dual-tracking and new stations between Belfast and Antrim on the existing Belfast-Derry~Londonderry line will benefit passengers in the region.
  4. Better West Coast Links: Constructing a new single-track line between Portadown and Mullingar via Armagh, Monaghan, Clones, and Cavan, as well as reinstating single-track lines between Mullingar and Athlone and between Claremorris and Athenry via Tuam, will revitalize west coast connectivity.
  5. Southern Connectivity: Reinstating a single-track line between Waterford and south of Wexford and creating a curve at Limerick Junction to facilitate through services between Cork and Waterford will boost southern region links.


The All-Island Strategic Rail Review Draft Report for Strategic Environmental Assessment Consultation presents a transformative vision for the future of rail travel in Ireland and Northern Ireland. By focusing on decarbonization, electrification, speed upgrades, and better regional connectivity, the recommendations offer a comprehensive strategy to create a sustainable, efficient, and accessible rail network. As the public and stakeholders engage in the consultation process, these recommendations mark a significant step towards a greener and more connected future for all.