Fianna Fáil Transport Spokesperson Timmy Dooley is urging the Government to engage with Irish Rail over plans that will essentially downgrade the Enterprise Rail Service between Dublin and Belfast.

Deputy Dooley said: “The emergence of these plans is disappointing. This is especially so at a time when significant resources have gone in to refurbishing the old rolling stock. Rather than making departure times less attractive and journeys longer, we need greater frequency in train times and shorter journey times. Instead Irish Rail wants to seriously disenfranchise thousands of commuters every week – a move which will over jeopardise its long-term sustainability if people are forced to find other modes of transport.

“Irish Rail’s proposed timetable will add 11 minutes to the journey time between Dublin and Belfast, taking it close to 2 hours 30 minutes. As long as the train service is slower than travelling by car it inherently undermines it in the eyes of commuter. We need to move to a situation where the Enterprise service is greatly enhanced. Fianna Fáil’s view is that the Enterprise should be moving towards a faster and an hourly service in both directions.

“The decision to move the Belfast departing time back from 6.50am to 6.15am will be justified on the basis that it has the potential to arrive at Connolly before 9am. However, when combined with later departure times from Dublin, it will have the effect only of adding almost an hour to the work day of commuters along the route. Arrival before 9am should be possible on the current timetable if there was a more efficient use of slots and the Enterprise service was given proper attention.

“The Enterprise Rail Service has been one of the great North-South success stories. However the fact that the service is now being downgraded is another sign that this Government is simply not engaging on the cross border development agenda. This Government has not given the cross border agenda any serious attention and through its inaction is undermining vital links.

“This issue can still be addressed. There are a number of weeks before Irish Rail’s proposals are to be implemented. The Government needs to engage with Irish Rail and I would encourage commuters all along the Belfast / Dublin line to engage with the consultation process. Minister Paschal Donohoe should meet with management to discuss this as a matter of priority.”