Dublin - Belfast "Enterprise" train crossing a viaduct with a lake in the foreground

Dublin and Belfast Enterprise service upgrade

An Enterprise express between Dublin and Belfast. The status of these prestige cross-border trains is a source of pride on both sides of the border Translink

Ireland’s cross-border Enterprise service is set for the biggest overhaul of its seventy-five-year history. Authorities in the Republic of Ireland and in the UK-administered Northern Ireland have agreed on a nine-figure investment in the cross-border service. New trains and a faster, more frequent timetable are planned. The upgrade will take the rest of the decade to achieve.

The planned revamp of the Enterprise service comes in light of the announced renewal of rolling stock across the metro and regional network around Dublin. There is also a high-profile recast of the rail network underway in Belfast, centred on the new Grand Central station. The updated Enterprise service is expected to connect the two capitals in under two hours for the 181km route.

Ambition for much greater improvement

The Enterprise service is set for a radical revamp. A 142 million pound (165 million euros) project will be the biggest-ever investment in the cross-border service. The latest moves represent huge progress on the Enterprise Strategic Development Plan, a document drawn up in 2018. Timetable improvements this summer will see the service increase to ten return trips on weekdays (six on Sundays). However, the ambition is for even greater improvement. New rolling stock and traction, an even more frequent service, and additional improvements in the longer term could see the Belfast end of the line electrified and a journey time of potentially ninety minutes – more than half an hour faster than today.

New rolling stock and traction are proposed for the Enterprise service, along with a much-enhanced timetable. Image:

“The provision of an hourly frequency is considered as the minimum service standard required between the two largest cities on the island of Ireland”, says the Development Plan report. “[That is] to be achieved as soon as possible.” The report goes on to describe an hourly, clock-face timetable as “an essential step towards delivering more strategic infrastructure and service developments, given the objective of developing the corridor as a European growth hub of trans-national importance.”

Symbolic of reconciliation between Ireland and the UK

Ireland’s railways have had a chequered history. Most notably, the all-Ireland network was partitioned at the time of independence, which formed the Republic of Irelan, and the UK territory of Northern Irelan, in 1921. The network has been downsized over the decades, in common with the rationalisation that steadily reduced the network in Great Britain. However, just after the Second World War, in 1947, a new service was inaugurated, connecting Dublin and Belfast directly. The move was considered to be symbolic of reconciliation between Ireland and the UK.

Ireland’s Enterprise train is due for a radical overhaul, and not just new vinyls. Image: © Translink.

However, as is well documented, relations deteriorated. Northern Ireland, in particular, was beset by violent confrontations between paramilitaries loyal to British rule and separatists seeking reunification with Dublin. The Enterprise service, although often disrupted, ran throughout the latter quarter of the twentieth century during what has become known as The Troubles. The Dublin and Belfast service became so symbolic of hope for eventual reconciliation that it attracted a ‘train for peace’ preservation following.

Tangible railway development and uniquely international service

Today, the international situation is much improved. Around the island of Ireland, there is much evidence of tangible railway development. In Belfast, the new Grand Central station is expected to be the new terminus of Enterprise services from later this year. In Dublin, the railway administration has unveiled the first example of the new trains that will serve the capital region. The two projects are both key parts of an all-Ireland plan for rail designed to revamp and unify the entire network across the island.

In this light, the Enterprise service has remained a joint venture between the two states. Since its inauguration in 1947, the trains have been operated jointly. The Enterprise concept is actually older than the current railway administration in both Ireland (Iarnród Éireann) and in the UK-ruled north (Northern Ireland Railways). NIR is a subsidiary of the overall Northern Ireland government agency, Translink.

Customs clearance is required to ride on the Enterprise services. Apart from the long-abandoned ferry trains that once crossed the English Channel, this the oldest direct international train from a British territory. It is also the only train, crossing a land border, to operate from British or Irish soil.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

1 comment op “Dublin and Belfast Enterprise service upgrade”

William Niblock|28.05.24|15:48

UK administrated Northern Ireland, is this guy for real.

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