The Deputy is aware that Project Ireland 2040 provides significantly enhanced funding levels for our rail network which will expand its capacity, improve line journey speeds and lead to a better passenger experience across an improved network.
Key to this improvement is the increased funding being made available under the Infrastructure Manager Multi-Annual Contract or IMMAC. The IMMAC is the funding programme under which an extensive range of infrastructure improvements are carried out which will deliver improved journey speeds and increased reliability for passengers across the country. I have no doubt the Deputy welcomes the fact that I will shortly be seeking Government’s approval to enter into a new 5 year IMMAC which will provide over €1billion to Iarnród Éireann and allow it maintain, renew and improve rail infrastructure. This level of funding represents an approximate 40% increase in the amount of taxpayer funding as compared to the five years between 2014 and 2018 and the fact the network is now funded at a “steady state” level is hugely significant.
However, Project Ireland 2040 provides additional funding for the rail network above and beyond this significant contribution under the IMMAC.
In the summer the Government approved a new National Train Control Centre which will completely modernise and improve the management of the network and services across the country. Construction will start next year and its completion will support the expanded services planned under the DART Expansion Programme which will roughly double the capacity of the network in the Greater Dublin Area, an area which handles approximately 70% of passenger journeys in any given year. Other projects underway include the City-Centre Re-signalling project, while construction will start next year on a new station in Pelletstown.
The Deputy will also acknowledge that funding under the PSO programme increased by approximately 6% between 2016 and 2018 which has supported increased services such as the 10-minute DART or greater utilisation of the Phoenix Park tunnel on the Kildare Line in recent years. In order to support further passenger growth the Government has very recently approved the purchase of 41 additional InterCity Railcars and I expect those to start entering service in late 2021.
Separately to the above, the future potential for rail is also being examined at a metropolitan level through the development by the National Transport Authority of metropolitan area transport strategies for all cities, which will assist with the Department’s approach toward the mid-term review of the current Project Ireland 2040 funding profiles envisaged in 2022, while an independent review of a potential extension of the Western Rail Corridor is expected to be submitted to the Department shortly. My Department also plans to conduct an evaluation in 2020 of higher speeds on the network in line with the commitment given in Project Ireland 2040.
As the Deputy can see, there is a significant investment programme underway in relation to rail and I expect this to continue in the years ahead.