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.
As I recently informed the Deputy, key to this improvement is the increased funding being made available under the Infrastructure Manager Multi-Annual Contract or IMMAC which is the funding programme providing for an extensive range of infrastructure improvements, including improved journey speeds and increased reliability for passengers across the country.
I will very 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 represents a 40% increase in taxpayer support for the rail network as compared to the period 2014 to 2018 and is a hugely significant milestone.
Project Ireland 2040 also provides additional funding for the rail network beyond the increased funding available under the IMMAC.
Such funding includes the development of a new National Train Control Centre, that Government approved in the summer, and which will completely modernise and improve the management of the network and services across the country. 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.
Again as I previously informed the Deputy, funding under the PSO programme increased by approximately 6% between 2016 and 2018. This 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 Government has very recently approved the purchase of 41 additional InterCity Railcars and I expect those to start entering service in late 2021.
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 has just been submitted to my Department 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.
So again, 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.