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Government of Ireland: Rail Focussed Transport Pipeline and Funding Outlook

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  • Ireland
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Budgetary allocation for transport

In Autumn 2022, the Government of Ireland announced the allocation of €3.51bn to the Department of Transport (DoT) in the budget for the next year. This includes €1.9bn for greener and cleaner transport, sustainable mobility, greenways and a carbon reduction programme to ensure that public transport remains cheaper for commuters throughout the year. This announcement incrementally follows on from the €35 billion investment package for the national transport system which was provided for in 2021, as part of the Government’s revised National Development Plan (NDP).

Sustainable mobility is a core objective of Project Ireland 2040, with the National Investment Framework for Transport (NIFTI) prioritising investment not only in decarbonisation but also mobility of services, goods and regional connectivity. Announced in December 2021 by the DoT, NIFTI sets out clear principles for the consideration of future transport investment and is closely aligned with key Government policy priorities and commitments, such as the Climate Action Plan and the NDP. It establishes four strategic investment priorities to address future transport challenges, which have equal weighting in the framework and include Decarbonisation, Protection and Renewal, Mobility of People and Goods in Urban Areas, and Enhanced Regional and Rural Connectivity.

Scope of funding for infrastructure projects including rail enhancements

The 2022 budgetary allocation funding primarily covers:

  • progressing crucial infrastructural projects such as:
  1. Metrolink, being a multi-billion euros project which will be a high-capacity, high-frequency and modern metro railway, with 16 new stations running from Swords to Charlemont. Currently undergoing the planning approval process, the project is intended to link the Dublin Airport, Irish Rail, DART, Dublin Bus and Luas services and create a fully integrated public transport network for the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), with project completion aimed for early 2030s;
  2. Dublin Area Rapid Transit (Dart)+ Programme, being a series of projects which will develop and expand the DART network in the Greater Dublin Area;
  3. the Cork Area Commuter Rail Programme (CMAT). A key focus of CMAT is the proposed development and enhancement to the heavy rail network which will ensure an integrated local and regional transport network for the future of Cork city and its surroundings. CMAT will support compact urban growth in a more sustainable way, facilitating modal shift out of the private car and on to public transport, thereby establishing a more efficient, sustainable, low carbon and climate resilient heavy rail network;
  • roll-out of new national public transport initiatives (including bus services) through ‘BusConnects’ and ‘Connecting Ireland’ over the coming year. BusConnects is a National Transport Authority (NTA) programme which forms a key part of the Government’s policy to improve public transport and address climate change in Dublin and other cities across Ireland. The Connecting Ireland ‘Rural Mobility Plan’ is a major national public transport initiative developed by the NTA, with the aim of increasing connectivity, particularly for people living outside major cities and towns;
  • purchase of 41 new rolling stock vehicles and more than 20 new buses which is intended improve peak capacity (on rail and road) across intercity services nationally by 34%;
  • 91 new double deck and 30 single deck electric vehicles for Public Service Obligation (PSO) fleets which receive subsidy support from the Government, across the country;
  • ramp up of Ireland’s ambitious electric vehicle charging programme and the continuation of funding to support the transition to electric vehicles including €110 million for EV grants and charging infrastructure, which includes €8 million in “Shared Island” funding. The Shared Island fund was established in Budget 2021 to bolster communication, cooperation and investment between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland;
  • retention of the 20% average fare discount on public transport fares throughout 2023; and
  • continuation of the Young Adult Card, including the expansion to 16, 17 and 18 year olds in third level education, so that they can also benefit from half-price public transport fares.

Notable rail enhancements targeted include:

  • construction on the new DART station at Woodbrook on the Southeastern line;
  • continuing the protection and renewal of the heavy rail network in order to enhance safety as well as comfort and reliability for passengers;
  • continued fit-out and planning for the replacement of the existing National Train Control Centre, being Iarnród Éireann’s (IE) centre for the management and regulation of train movements on the IE network) to overcome capacity restrains and refresh its IT systems; and re-commissioning works at Kishogue station;
  • progressing the MetroLink through the statutory planning approval phases; and
  • finalising the preferred route for the Cork Light Rail Transit and carry out a first round of public consultation on the proposals.

Investment in rail infrastructure

Additionally, IE supported by the NTA, and funded under Project Ireland 2040, is investing in trains, infrastructure, stations and improvements in customer service. Such investment is also intended to support the national Climate Action Plan and includes:

  • provision of up to 790 new train carriages to cater for growing demand, including up to 600 electric or battery electric carriages;
  • investment in track, signalling and level crossings to increase frequency and improve journey times, including:


  1. the Dublin City Centre Resignalling Project, which is intended to meet the ever increasing demand for rail transport by increasing the capacity and frequency of trains through Dublin city centre; and
  2. the Cork Line Level Crossings Project, which is mandated to identify the best approach to removing/upgrading seven level crossings located along the main Cork to Dublin line; and


  • provision of new stations and upgrading of existing stations including improved accessibility and car park facilities.

More recently, in November 2022, IE has specifically received approval from the Government for the procurement of 90 new battery-electric train carriages, under a procurement framework for new train carriages in a contract valued at €179m. The Irish rail system is anticipated to receive the new train carriages in 2026, which are expected to significantly improve Ireland’s rail transport capacity, including the expansion of the DART system and the wider Dart+ Programme. Comprising of 18 modern five-carriage battery-electric multiple units (BEMUs), the procurement will be financed by the Department of Transport through the NTA.

Concluding remarks

Transport, specifically a robust and modernised rail network, is key to Ireland’s future development and sustainability. The budgetary allocation for transport referred to above will facilitate the development of more accessible, greener infrastructure across the country and ensure that Ireland moves closer to achieving reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 and becoming a climate neutral nation by no later than 2050.