High-speed rail review that will include Derry/Donegal on track as Nichola Mallon and Eamon Ryan invite tenders across EU

A procurement process to secure a service provider for an all-Ireland Strategic Rail Review that will look at the feasibility of high speed rail links to the Derry/Donegal region has been launched by the Irish transport ministers Nichola Mallon and Eamon Ryan.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 4:09 pm

Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon MLA and Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan T.D. last year jointly committed to bringing forward a feasibility study into high speed rail between Derry – Belfast – Dublin – Limerick and Cork.

Today they said the Strategic Rail Review will consider how the rail network on the island of Ireland can improve sustainable connectivity between major cities, enhance regional accessibility including to the North West and support balanced regional development.

In addition, the Review will consider the feasibility of higher speeds on the network and whether there is a potential to increase use of the network for freight.

Nichola Mallon with Translink boss Chris Conway.

The Strategic Rail Review will be delivered by external consultants and overseen by the Department of Transport in co-operation with the Department for Infrastructure, supported by key stakeholders including the Commission for Rail Regulation, the National Transport Authority, Iarnród Éireann and Translink.

Today the project took a step forward as both ministers announced they were publishing a Request for Tender in the Official Journal for European Union seeking expressions of interest to conduct the Strategic Rail Review.

SDLP Leader and MP for Foyle Colum Eastwood said: “Today’s announcement of the all-island Strategic Rail Review is very welcome and it sends a clear signal that the SDLP’s ambition for all Ireland rail infrastructure is leading the way.

“Linking the North West with the rest of the island is key to addressing our economic problems, opening up opportunities for our citizens and our island economy.

“It is clear that we need jobs for our young people so they can have a career and put down roots here, instead of having to leave the North West in search of opportunities.

“To create more jobs, we need infrastructure development and university expansion. I’m glad that Minister Nichola Mallon is working closely with her counterpart Eamon Ryan to further that ambition following on from last year’s announcement on extending commitment to high-speed rail to include Derry and Limerick."

Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson said: “I welcome this move to review rail on an all-Ireland basis to help improve how we travel about this island.

“We know that our rail network can be improved by cutting journey times and increasing services.

“This could have major benefits for the north west and part of this work should include a feasibility study on extending the Derry line into Letterkenny and beyond.

“It’s vital that on the back of this review, we see real delivery on improving our rail line and creating connecting our island through our trains.”

Ms. Mallon said: "Travel by rail is an issue I am very passionate about and I believe it has massive untapped potential to deliver multiple benefits across our island. Since coming into office, I have been clear that it is my priority to address regional imbalance, tackle the climate crisis and better connect communities across Ireland.

"The All-Island Strategic Rail Review will allow us to consider our network across this island to view how we can improve it for everyone. Building on our commitments in New Decade New Approach to progress a spine of connectivity, this ambitious review, in partnership, will look at opportunities to enhance rail across our island.

"Now, more than ever our citizens deserve ambition in government and we need to take this chance for change to build back better for all peoples across Ireland. This is an ambitious piece of work that will help inform our decision making and investment in our rail network for years to come. It’s an exciting start of a journey, many have been waiting for.”

Mr. Ryan said: “I’m a firm believer in the potential of rail in supporting social and economic development and the environmental sustainability of our transport system. This year is designated as the European Year of Rail and I’m delighted to launch this strategic review of rail here in Ireland.

"I’m particularly pleased that we’ll undertake this review on an all-island basis, working with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive. The review will look at how rail can help better connect cities and regions across the island and will complement the investment we already plan in our commuter rail networks.”