Major Expansion of Irish Rail Fleet Announced
The Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has secured agreement from the Cabinet for Iarnród Éireann (IÉ) to order 90 new battery-electric train carriages from Alstom before Christmas this year, for delivery in 2026, in a major expansion of the Irish Rail fleet.
The new carriages will significantly enhance Ireland’s rail transport capacity, particularly to the expanding DART system in the Greater Dublin Area and Eastern region. The carriages will facilitate the wider DART+ Programme which is expanding the existing DART service from Dublin City Centre to Drogheda to the north, Maynooth/M3 Parkway to the west, Celbridge/Hazelhatch to the south-west. The DART+ Programme will dramatically increase the number of people that can avail of a frequent, high-capacity rail service, increasing the number of people living within 1km of a DART station from circa 250,000 at present to 600,000 in future.
The adaptable nature of the carriages means there is also potential to use them at some stage in the future between Greystones and Wicklow and/or for Cork Area Commuter Rail, serving communities between Mallow, Cork, Cobh and Midleton, subject to available funding for necessary infrastructure.
Using a procurement framework already in place, the government has approved IÉ to purchase 90 train carriages from Alstom over the coming weeks, to be delivered to the Irish rail system in 2026. The train order will consist of 18 modern 5-carriage Battery-Electric Multiple Units (BEMUs), funded by the Department of Transport through the National Transport Authority (NTA), at a total cost of circa €179 million. This is in addition to 95 new electric and battery-electric DART carriages approved by the government last December, entering into service in 2025.
The BEMUs can operate in electric-only mode using overhead electric wires or, through the use of batteries, in battery-electric operation in other parts of the rail network, maximising flexibility and capacity, and helping to replace and decarbonise existing diesel-fleet operations.
Minister Ryan commented, “I am delighted that the Cabinet agreed today to the purchase of 90 new battery-electric train carriages for arrival in 2026. This comes on top of the 41 intercity carriages currently arriving into Ireland as well as the 95 carriages approved by Government last year for the DART+ Programme. This government is continuing to do more to transform our rail and public transport systems than any other in decades. We are doing this because the scale of change we need to make is beyond compare – to provide better, more frequent and more accessible transport choices to many more people and to meet our emissions targets.”
Anne Graham, CEO of the NTA, said, “I have no doubt that the DART+ as a programme of projects will prove to be transformative for the entire region, and work is already proceeding well on progressing the infrastructure schemes.”
“The procurement of these battery-electric carriages is indicative of the urgency that is being shown when it comes to providing sustainable accessible transport alternatives for communities along these lines and beyond. In the draft GDA Transport Strategy 2022-2042, we announced that Public Service Obligation bus and commuter rail fleet in the Dublin Metropolitan Area will be 100% electric and zero-emission by 2035. This announcement marks a significant step towards that objective.”
Jim Meade, CEO of Iarnód Éíreann, welcomed the Cabinet’s decision, “the funding for 90 additional battery-electric carriages for DART+ is hugely welcome, as it will enable us to bring capacity and emission benefits to current and future commuters in advance of electrification. Additionally, the benefits will be felt nationwide, as existing Intercity and Commuter carriages operating in the Greater Dublin Area are freed up for use around the national network for more frequent services and more capacity on a range of routes.”