THE RAIL NETWORK and how we use it

Travel times by different modes

Travel times by different modes

The same journey can take different lengths of time, depending on the transport mode

Data sourced from Google Maps shows that travel between some towns and cities can take more than twice as long by rail, compared with travel by bus or car. This has been exacerbated by the major expansion of the motorway network in recent decades compared with more limited investment in the rail network.

The rail system on the island of Ireland is generally based around discrete services to the major urban centres. On these routes rail is generally competitive with other modes as it is unaffected by congestion in urban areas.

However, interchange between services can sometimes involve significant waiting times. As a result, for some journeys requiring interchange rail is less competitive than other modes in terms of journey times. This is particularly noticeable for locations that are within the same region, but connected by different radial rail routes to Dublin, although trips between major cities are also impacted.

An example of the former is Wexford to Waterford, which takes six hours by rail but under one hour by car. An example of the latter is the Cork to Belfast route which takes almost seven hours by train, and six hours by bus, but only four and a half hours by car. Rail is competitive with driving between Cork and Limerick despite the need for interchange as the two cities are not linked by motorway.

For towns such as Letterkenny and Omagh, which are not currently served by the rail network, using the rail network requires either driving or taking a bus to the nearest town or city with a train station. The lack of integration between rail and bus timetables can contribute to uncompetitive public transport journey times.

Table 1. Journey travel times between cities and towns, 09:00 weekday departure

Origin - Destination Journey Times
Drive Time Rail Time Bus Time
Athlone - Galway 1hrs 01min 1hrs 01min 1hrs 18min
Dublin - Belfast 1hrs 56min 2hrs 15min 2hrs 42min
Coleraine - Bangor 1hrs 23min 2hrs 39min* 3hrs 08min*
Port Laoise - Dublin 1hrs 19min 0hrs 55min 2hrs 05min
Cork - Belfast 4hrs 18min 6hrs 44min* 5hrs 50min*
Cork - Limerick 1hrs 33min 1hrs 41min* 1hrs 45min
Wexford - Waterford 0hrs 50min 06hrs 01min* 0hrs 50min
Tralee - Cork 1hrs 46min 2hrs 40min* 2hrs 15min
Newry - Belfast 0hrs 47min 1hrs 49min* 1hrs 40min
Coleraine - Derry/Londonderry 0hrs 46min 0hrs 51min 1hrs 14min
Clonmel - Limerick 1hrs 25min 1hrs 47min* 1hrs 28min