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Getting Around Ireland on Public Transport
Train Travel in Ireland – the ‘potted’ guide
Irish Rail or Iarnród Éireann [in Irish] is the passenger and freight railway for the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom, trains are operated by Translink/NIR.
Trains between the regions are generally Dublin or Belfast based with the services radiating out. There are of course some cross country routes. There are also local/commuter services.
Railway Timetables tend to be Monday to Saturday [with some additional trains on Fridays] and a different timetable on Sunday
Trains to Larne Town or Larne Harbour [via Carrickfergus] operate 37 times each day Mon-Fri from Great Victoria St Station [GVS] although some start at Belfast Central and some stop at points along the route. The service all the way to the Harbour tends to be hourly. Check the website for weekend timetables.
On the Londonderry line from GVS, the trains serve Antrim, Ballymoney, Coleraine and Portrush. Portrush is sometimes a connection from Coleraine. Bustitution [coaches instead of trains] may be used for part of this route because of long term engineering work. Check the website.
Belfast GVS to Bangor is a local service with lots of trains. There is a stop at Titanic Quarter and Sydinham for the City Airport.
Balfast to Portadown is the city southern local service and shares the track with the Dublin trains.
In Dublin there are two main stations;
... is the closest to the City Centre and served by coaches/buses from Dublin Ferryport and the 747 Airport Express Bus.. The LUAS tram has a terminus outside where connections can be made to the other main station, Heuston [allow 30/40 minutes]. Busaras, the H.Q of Irish Rail’s sister company, Bus Éireann the National Coach company is just across the street and provides further LUAS connections, especially off peak when the Connolly stop is not used.
Dublin/Belfast trains are jointly operated by both companies and there are 8 trains daily Mon/Sat at roughly 2hr intervals [very roughly] These trains generally call at Drogheda, Dundalk, Newry, Portadown and terminate in Belfast Central [bus connection to downtown Belfast – or local train back to Belfast GVS] The trains take about 2h15m.
Dublin/Sligo. The main towns on the rote served are Maynooth, Mullingar, Longford, Carrick o/Shannon and Boyle reaching Sligo in about 3hrs. There is a train at 8am, then 11h05 and every two hours until 19h05 with an additional train at 16h00 – 7 trains in all. Coming to Dublin the first service is at 5h45 then 7h00 and every two hours except 17h00, it leaves at 18h00.
Dublin/Rosslare Europort. Just 5 trains daily on this most scenic line on Irish Rail which links Dublin with Wicklow, Rathdrum, Arklow, Gorey, Enniscorthy, Wexford and Rosslare where there are ferries crossing to South Wales and Northern France. The trains take about 2h40mins. The first train leaves at 9h40 then at 13h35;16h35; 17h35 to Wexford town and 18h35. This pattern serves the long distance commuter and coming up the track they are 5h35; 7h20;12h55 and 17h55 with an additional 5h55 starting in Gorey. There are some tweaks on Saturday trains and the Sunday pattern is 3 trains each way. Check the website. These trains also call at Tara St Station and Pearse Station in the City Centre and Dún Laoghaire, Bray and Greystones which gives better access to commuters and visitors staying close to those areas and suburbs.
DART is a local electric train service which operates along the coast through Connolly Station. It serves local stops out as far as Malahide [9 miles – Castle and Village] on the Belfast mainline and Howth [8.5 miles, Harbour, Village and hill walks]] which branches off about half way to Malahide. Trains are roughly every half hour on each of the two spurs with a consequent 15min service through the City Centre. South from Connolly the DART serves Tara St Station [downtown] and Pearse Station [Trinity College/Grafton St], then Grand Canal Dock [Office land/ Theatres], Lansdowne Rd [Aviva Stadium], Sandymount [RDS Stadium/Exhibition Cente] and out through the suburbs to Bray with every 2nd train going on to Greystones [19 miles from Dublin] Services start at about 6h30 and finish about 23h30. Saturday services are slightly less frequent and Sunday services are roughly 3 every hour.
Commuter Trains depart from Connolly going north on the Belfast Line to Drogheda [30 miles] serving the local stations from Malahide [where the DART finishes]. Most trains start at Pearse Station and also call at Tara St. Some trains in peak times operate through to Bray serving some of the DART stops. There is a frequent service during the morning and evening peak but it is roughly hourly off peak. Like the DART slightly fewer trains on Saturday and fewer again on Sundays. Services operate from about 7am to 23h30 going out with a 6am start coming up to the City finishing at 22h00
A further Commuter service operates over the Sligo line as far as Maynooth [pretty University Town] – about 20 miles out. These trains serve the western suburbs of Castleknock and Leixlip and call at Drumcondra [Croke Park Stadium close by] Like the Northern Commuter, there is a good service in the peak hours but roughly hourly off peak. The same reduced frequency operates Sats and Suns. Like the Northern Commuter too, many services start/finish at Pearse Station and call at Tara St. The service starts at 5h25 finishing at 23h00. The last train back in the evening is at 23h10. During the peak hours there is a service from M3Parkway – a new spur of the Sligo Line serving a large car park off the M3 Motorway on the outskirts of the City through the suburbs but terminating at Docklands, a new station in the Financial Services district. This station is linked to Connolly by LUAS at the Busaras stop. In the off-peak, M3Parkway branch trains terminate at Clonsilla where there is a connection with the Commuter trains to Connolly.
This station is located close to the Guinness Brewery and is about 2 miles [3km] upstream of the City Centre. To get to Heuston from ‘downtown’ there is the LUAS tram line from Connolly, Busaras [Coach Station] and Abbey St just of O’Connell St. From the Leeson St/St Stephen’s Green area there is a frequent bus connect on route 145. The 145 also picks up passengers at O’Connell Bridge and along the riverside. From the western suburbs, Bus Routes 25 [Lucan] 66 [Maynooth & Palmerstown] 69 [Rathcoole/Clondalkin and Inchicore] call at Parkgate St about 3mins walk on the opposite bank of the river. Bus route 747 links the station with the Airport.
Train routes to/from Heuston serve Waterford; the South [Cork, Limerick and Kerry]; the Midlands & West [Athlone/Galway & Mayo]
Waterford: 7 trains run daily Mon/Sat and 4 on Sunday. These main towns that trains serve are Kildare, Athy, Carlow and Kilkenny. Kilkenny takes about 1h30 and the entire journey about 2h10. Trains are unevenly spaced starting at 7h25, then 10h15; 13h15; 15h10 16h40; 17h35 and 18h35. A later 20h15 goes as far as Carlow. The services up from Waterford are similarly weighted towards the morning starting at 6h05, then 7h10 and 7h50 with a gap til 11h. The last train is 18h25. There is an additional morning and an evening service from Carlow.
Cork, Limerick and Kerry [Tralee]: The Dublin/Cork line is the basis for this route with a spur to Limerick from Limerick Junction and a spur into Co Kerry [Killarney & Tralee] from Mallow. It is possible also to make connections at Ballybrophy for the cross country route to Roscrea & Nenagh and get to Limerick that way – but the service is slow and infrequent. Just 2 trains daily make the connection - the 9h00 and 18h00 from Heuston. It is also possible to make the connection coming up from Cork [and Kerry]. At Limerick Junction there is another cross country route to Waterford via Tipperary, Cahir, Clonmel and Carrick o/Suir. Two trains operate daily and the connections are from the 8h00 and 17h00 from Heuston. Getting to Waterford by this route takes about 3h30mins. Direct trains on the Dublin/Cork route start at 07h00 and depart on the hour every hour until 19h00 with one further train at 21h00. The 166 miles takes about 2h45m. The main towns on the Route are Portlaoise, Thurles and Mallow, but not every train stops at all stations and some call at other smaller towns such as the aforementioned Ballybrophy. Each train calls at Limerick Junction [except the 15h00] for the shuttle into Limerick which takes about 25mins. Additionally there are direct trains to Limerick at 15h25; 16h25 and 17h25. Some of the shuttles continue on to Ennis. At Mallow, there is a spur to Co Kerry. Starting at 7h00, every 2nd Cork train makes a connection at Mallow for the Killarney and Tralee line except the 17h00 and 21h00 trains. There is one direct train from Dublin at 17h05. Coming from Cork there are trains at 6am; 7am; 8h20 and then at 20 past each hour until 20h20. Similar arrangements to the ‘down’ trains are possible for Kerry and Limerick from these ‘up’ trains.
Cork city has local commuter lines out to Midleton and Cobh with frequent services. In addition to the advertised service on the Cobh line there are extra trains to carry passengers when Cruise Liners are in.
The Dublin to Midlands/West services share the Cork line as far as Portarlington where the line diverges and serves Tullamore and Athlone. At Athlone which is practically in the centre of Ireland, the lines split once more with the track to Galway heading due west through Ballinasloe and Athenry. The track to Co Mayo swings to the n.west through Roscommon and Claremorris. At Manulla Junction, a place that is only used for passenger transfer, there is no public access – the line splits for the last time. Trains to Ballina connect with the Westport trains here whilst the main track continues to the west serving Castlebar and finally Westport at 161 miles from Dublin.
Galway Trains depart Heuston at 7h35 and are roughly 2 hourly until 19h35 – there are 9 departures [6 on Sun]. The service coming up from Galway starts at 5h30 and the last train is at 19h15. The Journey from Dublin to Tullamore takes about 50ms; Athlone [80 miles] is reached in 1h20m and the entire line takes about 2h15m. There are additional trains between Galway and Athenry with some of these going through to Limerick via Ennis on a cross country route.
Westport has 4 trains daily at 7h35 [this is a shared service with Galway and trains are divided at Athlone – make sure you are in the right half!];12h45; 14h45 and 18h15. A similar pattern operates in the opposite direction with trains at 5h15; 7h15; 9h45; 13h10 and 18h15. The overall trip takes 3h15. A shuttle train connects westbound and eastbound trains at Manulla with Ballina and Foxford except for the 5h15 to Dublin making journeys between Ballina, Castlebar and Westport possible.
Between Galway and Limerick there are cross country trains at 6h20; 10h30; 13h45m and 17h45 with a train at 18h35 to Ennis. There are 5 trains in the opposite direction with additional trains between Limerick and Ennis. The route takes just under 2 hours on average and trains call at Ennis, Gort and Athenry.
Fares and Tickets.
NIR: A one way ticket from Belfast GVS to Larne Harbour costs £6.50 or £10 for a day return. There are cheaper options for off-peak. There is a ‘smartcard’ iLink ticket which is zone based. The Belfast Visitor pass is good for 1 day on trains and buses [£6.50] up to 3 days [£14]
Dublin: Leap Card is the new, easy-to-use, hassle-free way to travel around Dublin. You can use it on Dublin Bus, Luas, DART and Commuter Rail services. Simply buy your Leap Card, top it up with Travel Credit and away you go. Tag on and don’t forget to Tag off or you will be charged the most expensive fare. Capping hasn’t been introduced on all services yet but LUAS fares are capped at a maximum spend on any one day.
Irish Rail: The Trekker is for 4 consecutive days of unlimited travel on all Iarnród Éireann services in the Republic of Ireland from the date of issue on the ticket. Price €110. The Irish Explorer Rail Only offers customers 5 days unlimited travel out of 15 consecutive days on all Iarnród Éireann services in the Republic of Ireland for only €160. Irish Explorer Rail & Bus offers customers 8 days unlimited travel out of 15 consecutive days on Iarnród Éireann and Bus Eireann services for only €245. There is no rambler/explorer type ticket for ALL the railways on the island of Ireland. One way tickets can [and to get the best price should] be bought on-line. To get the best deals book at least 3 days before travel. Commuter tickets are ‘turn-up & go’ – pay at the ticket desk or buy from a vending machine. There are discounts for Students with valid university ID. cards. Student fares may not be available on line so it is best to check by phoning ahead for the price [or emailing an inquiry] to see if the on-line or ticket desk fare is cheaper.
Visitors should note that it is illegal to travel without a ticket where there is a facility to pay before travel. In other words, if there is a ticket machine don’t board the train and pay the conductor – he may charge you considerably more than the single fare as a ‘fine’.
Trains & Stations
All trains on Irish Rail and NIR are modern. There is one class only on most trains but trains on busy routes [Dublin/Belfast & Dublin/Cork] offer a Premier or CityGold type 1st Class. Tickets do not cover this unless it says so on the ticket. But it is possible to buy on-line or pay for an upgrade on board. 1st Class carriages have less and bigger seats, at seat waiter service, complimentary newspapers in some cases and the like. It is possible to reserve a seat on-line for many trains but most trains have sufficient capacity to carry all the passengers without the worry of reserving. Just be wary of peak hour trains especially trains coming to Dublin before a big event/match or trains out of Dublin on Friday afternoon on a Holiday weekend. In Heuston the queues can be long on Friday evenings so get there early. There is at least a snack trolley on most trains [except Commuter/DART trains]. Many trains now have free wifi and also most have a facility under the table in the carriage to charge a laptop/mobile phone.Most trains have limited space for a few bicycles for which there may be a small charge. On DART and Commuter trains these are carried free on off-peak trains only. Passengers have to stand with these as there are no racks on these local trains. Motorised cycles are not carried. Mobility impaired passengers are carried in specially adapted areas on the trains for wheelchairs. It is prudent to advise the stations in advance so that staff can be ready to facilitate boarding and alighting.
Most stations have elevators to access the platforms along with pedestrian bridges to cross the tracks. Most stations have staff but some of the smaller stations are unstaffed. Bigger stations will have some catering services and these are provided by independent retailers. Stations and trains have toilet facilities but not DART stations or trains, or the small unstaffed rural stations.
Organised Touring by Train. www.railtoursireland.com is a private tour company which as its name suggests specialises in tours by train. There are short trips such as Wicklow/Glendalough going out on the 9h40 Rosslare train from Connolly, transfer to Coach at Arklow and touring the area before being brought back by train to arrive in Connolly at 16h45. This trip is €39. There are several other longer day trips, overnighters, 3; 4 ;5 day trips and an All Ireland 6 day tour at €889 which includes all the railway fares
That’s it as of February 2013. The potted guide! Always check the websites to make sure that a) I haven’t goofed ... and b) something has changed
Please note most trains from Dublin Heuston have large queues waiting to board trains. Arriving early would be a good idea especially Friday evenings.
There are more options than the train and there is much more coverage. It is also a lot cheaper than the train as well. There are mainly coaches used on long distance routes. Some longer routes have rest stops en-route.
The main companies that operate are below.
Bus Éireann and City Link have internet booking services. Bus Éireann offer a online discount on most of their ticket. Most main cities are linked by hourly services.
In Dublin most Bus Éireann services depart from the Busáras (Dublin Bus station) in Store Street. Please note other operators will have other pick up points.
Dublin Airport is linked by various buses and coches. But there is no rail connection, although one is planned in the future. The journey time is about 30 minutes to city centre but may take longer in heavy traffic. The most frequent service is provided by Dublin Bus. For more luxury traveling there is car hire in Dublin Airport.
Cork Airport has a frequent bus service to Cork City Centre operated by Bus Éireann. Journey time is about 20 minutes.
The SkyLink bus service connects regularly to the city centre and major hotels, it operates two routes through the city centre and information is available at the airport.
Shannon Airport has bus links to Galway, Limerick, Dublin and Cork. Most services are operated by Bus Éireann. But JJ Kavangh operate a service to Dublin City Centre and Airport via Limerick. City Link operate a bus to Galway. Journey time to Limerick (nearest city) is 30 minutes but it could take longer depending on the traffic.