Republic of Ireland news

Irish government accused of failing to honour cross-border rail pledge

The Enterprise trains were refurbished as part of a £12.2 million upgrade programme
Brendan Hughes

THE Irish government has been accused of failing to honour a pledge to improve cross-border rail links after it emerged Enterprise passengers suffered 1,700 delays in the past year.

The scale of delays affecting the flagship train service between Belfast and Dublin was revealed by The Irish News last month.

Records show that in total the delays since last November stretch to more than 15 full days, with some individual stoppages lasting more than two hours.

The details emerged a year after a major £12.2m refurbishment of the Enterprise fleet that included new interiors and an overhaul of the trains' mechanical systems.

But the service has been beset with problems amid continued complaints from passengers about overcrowding, timetabling issues and slow journeys.

In January the newly-refurbished trains had their safety licence suspended in the south for a period after passenger doors opened mid-journey.

As part of Stormont's 'Fresh Start' agreement announced a year ago, the Republic pledged a "renewed focus" on cross-border rail investment.

Fianna Fáil Louth TD Declan Breathnach, the party's spokesperson on cross-border co-operation, accused the Irish government of failing to progress its commitments.

He said one year on from Fresh Start it was clear the government had "not put any effort into delivering on this promise".

"The truth is that over the 12 months since the Fresh Start agreement was signed, the north-south rail service has had a terrible performance," he said.

Mr Breathnach described the scale of delays on the Enterprise service as "incredible".

"I know from my own constituency, where two of the train's six stops are located, the service has become chronically overcrowded and unreliable," he said.

"There is a serious question mark over Ireland's delivery of its side of the agreement and that cannot continue."

The north's public transport operator Translink has defended the Enterprise service, saying that most delays are less than 10 minutes or are caused by issues outside their control such as difficult weather conditions.

It said 99.9 per cent of Enterprise trains in the last year operated as planned and 92.8 per cent arrived within 10 minutes of the published time.

The transport department in the Republic did not respond to requests for a comment.

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