Irish Rail has begun a tendering process to acquire up to 600 electric or battery-electric powered carriages over the next decade to create the largest and greenest fleet in Irish public transport.
DART Expansion, a €2bn investment under Project Ireland 2040, will see the capacity of the rail network upgraded through investment in up to 300 new carriages, electrification of lines to Maynooth, M3 Parkway, Hazelhatch and Drogheda, and key infrastructure works to allow more trains to operate in the greater Dublin area.
The tender for some 600 carriages, which is supported by the National Transport Authority (NTA), will allow for significant expansion of the existing fleet as well as the replacement of the original DART fleet. The current 76-carriage DART fleet will be almost 45 years old at the end of the current National Development Plan in 2027
Irish Rail said that the tender is expected to attract the interest of "virtually every major global train manufacturer", such is its scale and will ensure that customers benefit from up-to-date facilities and technology.
While electricity-powered trains are expected to make up the overwhelming majority of train orders, the tender process is also providing for a possible first tranche of battery-electric hybrid trains.
However, the overall order will see the total rail fleet for the greater Dublin area, and up to 80% of all heavy rail journeys in Ireland, set for a potentially emissions-free future.
Chief executive of Iarnród Eireann Jim Meade said the tender was the first major step in the DART expansion project.
"The project will revolutionise public transport in the greater Dublin area, providing an even more frequent and environmentally sustainable commuting option for new and existing communities. It will also provide greater capacity for Intercity and regional commuter services as carriages currently utilised in the greater Dublin area will become available for other services," he said.
CEO of the NTA Anne Graham said the expansion of the DART was allowing for a major move in the direction of reducing Ireland's greenhouse emissions from the transport sector.
The recent Oireachtas Climate Action Committee report recommended that the public transport elements of Project Ireland 2040 be prioritised. The Committee called for the speedy delivery of public transport investment to encourage more people to choose sustainable modes and leave the car behind. Today’s announcement represents a significant step in that direction," she said.
Irish Rail and the NTA also said they are progressing shorter-term options to meet record demand on Ireland’s railways.
Negotiations are underway between Irish Rail and its supplier seeking to agree an order for at least 41 extra Intercity railcar carriages, adding to an existing fleet of 234 vehicles, to enter service from late 2021.