Some 67 new state-of-the-art train carriages were today unveiled on one of the country’s busiest railway lines.
The trains – part of an overall €117m upgrade of Iarnrod Eireann’s fleet – will begin running on the Cork to Dublin line at the end of the year, as part of a new hourly service.
Daily capacity on the route will increase from 9,000 to 16,000 seats, however the two hours 50 minutes travel time will not be reduced.
The Government promised increased reliability and timekeeping on the state railway network as a result of the massive cash injection under the Transport 21 investment programme due to be completed by 2008.
Transport Minister, Martin Cullen, launching the carriages at Cork’s Kent Street station, said they would greatly enhance the intercity journey.
“These are exciting times for the development of the rail network including the biggest rail investment package in the history of rail in Ireland with 253 new carriages at a cost of €501m,” said Minister Cullen.
Some 150 more carriages, costing €321m, are expected to begin service on other intercity lines next year.
The routes include Dublin to Westport/Ballina, Sligo, Galway, Tralee, Waterford and Rosslare.
“In the past five years the company has virtually rebuilt the railway network. The railway infrastructure in Ireland has moved to a 21st Century standard,” said Mr Cullen.
“Passenger numbers have increased substantially and last year Iarnród Éireann carried nearly 38 million passengers, making it the fastest growing railway network in Europe.
“All of the work carried out on the railway fixed infrastructure is largely unseen by the travelling public but with the entry into service of the new carriages we will now reap the rewards of this investment.
“The improvements in terms of time savings, reliability, frequencies and comfort will now be evident to all who use the Intercity network,” he said.
The new trains were made by Spanish company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, which also manufactured 23 new carriages for Northern Ireland Railways in 2004.