There will be no on-board catering service on Irish Rail’s intercity services until next year, at the earliest.
The company is now poised to tender for a new catering service provider following the agreed termination of the contract between Iarnród Éireann and RailGourmet, which has been struggling to resolve staffing issues following the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
However, catering services on the Dublin to Belfast Enterprise train, which is operated under a separate contract with Corporate Catering Services Ltd, will continue to operate on a limited basis, the company said.
The on-board serving of food and drink on trains was suspended early in the pandemic but when Covid restrictions on public transport ended in February, the on-board catering service did not resume.
In various updates since, Irish Rail had been warning its customers that the resumption of the service could be some time away.
It has now confirmed that its trains will be without on-board catering for the rest of this year, and into early next year as well.
It apologised to its customers but said RailGourmet had advised it that it was no longer able to provide catering services on the intercity network.
“This is despite extensive efforts by both Iarnród Éireann and RailGourmet to see on-board catering services resume, following their enforced absence for two years of the pandemic,” it said in a statement.
“Since the lifting of face-covering regulations in February 2022, RailGourmet has not been able to resume services, primarily due to the challenges in resolving staffing issues, and significant additional costs.
“As a result, a termination of the contract with RailGourmet has been agreed, and catering services will remain suspended.”
The company said it plans to moves quickly to commence the process to tender for a new catering contract.
“However, this will mean that catering services are unlikely to be available on board until at least early 2023,” it said.
“Meanwhile, many of our intercity stations have existing retail and catering facilities available for customers, and Iarnród Éireann will work with CIÉ Property in the interim to further enhance, where possible, station-based retail and catering options for customers.”
But it has advised customers planning a substantial intercity journey, especially those making early morning trips and in general for travel over the summer months, to be aware that on-board catering will not be available.