The Policy Opportunity

Rail is recognised on this island as an important asset to enable a better quality of life and more sustainable travel

The Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive both have ambitions to improve the transport system, recognising the important role that it plays in quality of life, economic activity, and the environment.

These key policy opportunities are relevant when planning for the future of the rail network.

Policy Opportunities

Rail is recognised in both Ireland and Northern Ireland as an important asset to enable a better quality of life and more sustainable travel


Several policies and strategies aim to address decarbonisation in the transport sector, including through developing alternative fuelled transport and reducing travel by car. Rail is seen as a key enabler with a move towards electric or hybrid trains, as well as through shifting passenger travel from private motor vehicles to rail, as this will reduce the carbon emissions associated with the use of diesel and petrol.

Opportunity for rail to contribute towards:

Climate action, clean energy, air quality.

Network Connectivity

Policies and plans identify the importance of investment in north-south connectivity, as well as enhancing links between major cities; including consideration of the potential for high/higher speed rail.

Opportunity for rail to contribute towards:

Supporting transport needs, compact growth, quality of life.

Regional Accessibility

Regional accessibility is a key element of many policies at the national and regional level, including a focus on improved connectivity to and from the North-West. Improving regional access means better economic and social connections for people who do not live in the seven major cities, increasing access to opportunity, and supporting balanced regional development.

Opportunity for rail to contribute towards:

Regional and rural development, inter-regional connectivity, quality of life.

Sustainable Mobility

Policies at every level of Government support sustainable mobility aims, with a focus on providing alternative travel options to reduce private motor vehicle use, integration of public transport services – with each other and with active travel networks, and managing travel demand, including through integrating transport and land use planning through strategies like compact growth.

Opportunity for rail to contribute towards:

Quality of life, low-carbon society, compact growth, integration, alternative travel options, managing travel demand.

Strong Economies

Better connecting major cities, ports and airports can facilitate new economic opportunities. At a regional level, the three regional assemblies in Ireland acknowledge the economic potential of rail corridors; for efficient freight movements, connecting workforces, and supporting tourism. In Northern Ireland rail is critical to supporting the growth of the economy and potential new industrial opportunities.

Opportunity for rail to contribute towards:

Economic growth, efficient movement of people and freight, balance regional and urban growth, connecting people to jobs, international connectivity, economic competitiveness.

Economic and Financial Feasibility

With significant plans for investment in transport infrastructure, delivering greater value for money is key. Ireland’s Public Spending Code requires that for a project to proceed it must be the ‘best means to a particular policy goal,’ while Northern Ireland’s Guide to Expenditure Appraisal and Evaluation aims to assess what is best for the people of Northern Ireland and to deliver maximum benefit.

Opportunity for rail to contribute towards:

Efficiency, meeting demand, optimising benefit, accountability.