All-Island Rail Review to ‘push ahead’ despite Stormont block Strategy

Transport officials will move to bypass the political deadlock in the North as they look to publish the All-Island Rail Review, which has thus far proved impossible without a sitting Executive.

The All-Island Rail Review was commissioned in June 2021 as the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive sought to study the feasibility of the creation of a truly all-Ireland rail network as political jurisdictions around the world seek to invest in great public transport availability as a means of decarbonising transport. It was stated in February 2023 that the report commissioned would not be published until “it has received appropriate ministerial approval from both jurisdictions”, meaning that publication was considered impossible until the restoration of the Executive and Assembly in the North.

However, as was first reported by, the Department of Transport is now seeking to “push ahead” with the publication of the draft review of the rail network in Ireland. The move to progress the publication of the report comes following pressure from multiple rail campaign groups, with nine from across the 32 counties (Circle Line Belfast, Into the West, Portadown-Armagh Railway Society, Cork Commuter Coalition, Dublin Commuter Coalition, North Tipperary Community Rail Partnership, Rail Users Ireland, South East on Track, and West on Track) having written to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD, transport officials in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, and the leaders of all Assembly parties to stress the need for work to begin immediately.

It is expected that the draft review will feature proposals to build a new railway line connecting Letterkenny and Derry, along with other proposals to discard greenways planned through old rail lines in favour of the reintroduction of these rail lines. The disused Wexford-Waterford link at Rosslare, and the Athenry-Claremorris connection along the Western Rail Corridor are expected to be amongst the lines cited as being capable of returning to service.

Ministerial sign-off from both Ryan and his counterpart in the North would be required for the publication of the report, but with the absence of ministers in the North, the decision-making framework laid out in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2022 may be used. This framework states that “the absence of Northern Ireland ministers does not prevent a senior officer of a Northern Ireland department from exercising a function of the department if the officer is satisfied that it is in the public interest to exercise the function”.

A draft copy of the report is expected to be published before the end of quarter two 2023 if a strategic environmental assessment is deemed necessary during screening. The final report is expected to be published in the second half of 2023.

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