The Government of Ireland has allocated €1bn for investment in the country’s heavy rail infrastructure over the next five years.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross announced the investment. Exchequer funding will be made available through the Infrastructure Manager Multi-Annual Contract (IMMAC).

This move is expected to boost the rail network with improved journey times and continued rail safety. Funding will be used for rail civil engineering programmes such as track relaying, signalling upgrades and other initiatives to increase safety from 2020 to 2024.

Ross said: “This is a significant step forward in terms of funding the rail network. The Exchequer funding that is committed over the next five years represents an almost 40% increase in the level of funding provided between 2014 and 2018.

“This level of investment means that the rail network is now being funded at the ‘steady-state’ level required to ensure optimal maintenance, renewal and improvement of our rail infrastructure.”

The Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) network includes around 2,400km of track, 4,440 bridges, 1,100 point ends and 970 level crossings. The network also comprises 3,300 cuttings and embankments, 372 platforms, 144 stations, and 13 tunnels. The mainline, Dublin suburban and commuter passenger routes, as well as freight-only routes, are part of the network.

Independent monitoring body the Commission for Rail Regulation will monitor the programme’s delivery according to the European Union (Regulation of Railways) Regulations, 2015.

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In June, Transdev received a contract to operate and maintain Luas, the light-rail network in Dublin, Ireland. The contract was awarded by Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the National Transport Authority after an international tender process.