I thank the Deputy for his question and welcome him to his new role as transport spokesman. I pay tribute also to his predecessor, Deputy Troy, who fulfilled his role extraordinarily well.
The Deputy is quite right that due to increased demand, there are capacity issues at certain times and on certain parts of our rail network. I am happy to inform him that additional capacity has been, and will continue to be, delivered over the short, medium and longer term. As to the short term, ten-minute DART services and expanded services through the Phoenix Park tunnel and on other commuter lines have been introduced. The focus now is on off-peak expansion with a view to easing pressures during the peak period. This year, construction will also start on the new national train control centre, which will improve management of the network generally and allow for some capacity increases once completed.
As the commuter rail fleet is fully deployed at peak times, however, we must also increase the volume of rolling stock. That will be achieved through medium and longer term measures. In the medium term, the National Transport Authority, NTA, and Iarnród Éireann are proposing to purchase additional carriages for the existing fleet known as the ICR, or intercity, fleet. I expect a business case on this proposal to be submitted shortly. Once approved, I understand the additional carriages will come on-stream in approximately two years. While the NTA and Iarnród Éireann are also evaluating tenders received in an earlier process to seek second-hand fleet stock, the proposal is complicated by the different rail gauge in use in Ireland.
In the longer term, it is proposed to massively expand the fleet. A pre-qualifying notice for the relevant procurement competition has issued. The new carriages will be a mixture of bi-mode, or battery electric, and fully electric and form part of the DART expansion programme. It is expected contracts will be awarded during 2020 in respect of this proposal. These are significant investments and, obviously, value for money is an important consideration. The Deputy can be assured that I am making funding available to expand the capacity of our rail network and I look forward to his support in that regard.