Iarnród Éireann and Alstom sign contract for 90 additional battery-electric carriages, following Government funding approval

More capacity, improved accessibility, lower emissions 

Following the Cabinet decision earlier this week, and final formal funding approval from the National Transport Authority, Iarnród Éireann and Alstom today signed the contract for 90 additional battery-electric carriages for the rail company’s fleet. The accelerated investment will enable Iarnród Éireann to deliver more capacity and decarbonisation benefits in advance of electrification of the extended DART+ network.

This order of 90 carriages, a project investment of €179 million, brings to 185 DART+ carriages ordered from Alstom over the past 12 months, from a framework agreement for the largest and most sustainable ever order of fleet for Ireland’s public transport network, which will allow up to 750 carriages to be ordered over the coming decade.

The new carriages will significantly enhance Ireland’s rail transport capacity, particularly to the expanding DART system in the Greater Dublin Area and Eastern region. The carriages will facilitate the wider DART+ Programme which is expanding the existing DART service from Dublin City Centre to Drogheda to the north, Maynooth/M3 Parkway to the west, Celbridge/Hazelhatch to the south-west. The DART+ Programme will dramatically increase the number of people that can avail of a frequent, high-capacity rail service, increasing the number of people living within 1km of a DART station from circa 250,000 at present to 600,000 in future.

The adaptable nature of the carriages means there is also potential to use them at some stage in the future between Greystones and Wicklow and/or for Cork Area Commuter Rail, serving communities between Mallow, Cork, Cobh and Midleton, subject to available funding for necessary infrastructure.

The BEMUs can operate in electric-only mode using overhead electric wires or, through the use of batteries, in battery-electric operation in other parts of the rail network, maximising flexibility and capacity, and helping to replace and decarbonise existing diesel-fleet operations.

IÉ, supported by the NTA, and Alstom entered into a framework agreement in December 2021 allowing for up to 750 new DART carriages to be ordered over a 10-year period.  Today’s funding allows the second tranche of carriages to be ordered, bringing to 185 the number ordered to date.

Alstom is one of the largest global suppliers of trains, and is well known to Irish transport users as the supplier of the LUAS tram fleet, and globally as the manufacturer of TGV high-speed trains.  Alstom will deliver the new DART+ fleet as an energy efficient suburban transport solution from its proven X’Trapolis family of trains, with over 2,000 of these already in service in more than 10 countries, but with bespoke refinements to meet the needs of Iarnród Éireann, including Ireland’s specific track gauge.

The fleet will:

  • Consist of 5-carriage train sets (equivalent in length to the 4-carriage train sets in the current DART fleet) providing high capacity with wide gangways between carriages.  This will allow customers to freely circulate throughout the full length of 5-carriage trains, creating a more open and spacious environment and enhancing security.   A 10-carriage train, made up of two 5-carriage train sets joined, will be the longest train size operable by the new fleet on current infrastructure, and will have capacity for at least 1,100 customers
  • Prioritise independent access, with each of the low-height doorway thresholds being equipped with an automatic retractable step and offering the potential for unassisted level access from suitable platforms, aligned with platform enhancements
  • Include improved facilities for families and for cyclists, with dedicated family and bicycle storage areas, and charging facilities for everything from mobile phones to e-bikes and e-scooters
  • Provide transformed customer information on-board, with large, high-resolution onboard displays having the ability to provide real-time updates, including information from other public transport systems in the Transport for Ireland network, and other features designed for the needs of sensory impaired customers
  • Be designed for reduced energy consumption, enhancing further rail’s advantage in sustainable mobility for land transport
  • Be equipped with an advanced CCTV system with cameras throughout every carriage, to enhance safety and security for customers and employees
  • Be designed to meet the expectations of customers and to deliver an ergonomic design for drivers – research with customer and driver groups is well advaced to ensure the needs of all on board are integral to design
  • Deliver off-wire operation through the incorporation of battery-electric technology, enabling new services and new capacity to be provided in the Greater Dublin area in advance of electrification.  Energy stored in the battery system will be replenished via fast charging stations at chosen terminus locations and by recovering braking energy while the new battery-electric trainsets are on the move.
  • Today’s 90-carriage order will benefit:
    • Maynooth/M3 Parkway and Kildare line services, delivering more capacity for commuters in advance of electrification
    • Subject to funding for necessary infrastructure, they can also be deployed elsewhere on the network, such as in the enhanced Cork area commuter network, or to extend the DART to Wicklow
    • Introduction of the new fleet will also free up existing carriages to increase capacity on other Commuter and Intercity services
  • In addition to the fleet, Alstom will provide a range of supports, including a Technical Support and Spares Supply agreement for the first 15 years of the fleet’s operation, and provision of three train simulators to support driver training

Alstom UK & Ireland Managing Director Nick Crossfield and Alstom Ireland Managing Director Piers Wood joined Chief Executive of the National Transport Authority, Anne Graham and Iarnród Éireann’s Chief Executive, Jim Meade at IE’s Connolly Station headquarters on Friday morning to formally sign the new order.

Anne Graham, CEO of the NTA, said: “I have no doubt that the DART+ as a programme of projects will prove to be transformative for the entire region, and work is already proceeding well on progressing the infrastructure schemes.

The procurement of these battery-electric carriages is indicative of the urgency that is being shown when it comes to providing sustainable accessible transport alternatives for communities along these lines and beyond.

In the draft GDA Transport Strategy 2022-2042, we announced that Public Service Obligation bus and commuter rail fleet in the Dublin Metropolitan Area will be 100% electric and zero-emission by 2035. Today’s contract marks a significant step towards that objective.”

Jim Meade, CEO of Iarnód Éíreann, welcomed the Cabinet’s decision: “The funding for 90 additional battery-electric carriages for DART+ is hugely welcome, as it will enable us to bring capacity and emission benefits to current and future commuters in advance of electrification. Additionally, the benefits will be felt nationwide, as existing Intercity and Commuter carriages  are freed up for use around the national network for more frequent services and more capacity on a range of routes.”

“As the world’s leading innovator and supplier of green mobility technologies, Alstom is here for the long-term to support Ireland in delivering transformative change to its citizens through sustainable rail travel,” said Nick Crossfield, Managing Director, UK and Ireland. “This further order of X’trapolis trains signals Iarnród Éireann’s intent to move quickly in greening the Greater Dublin commuter network, Ireland’s most populated commuter belt as a first step in that national transformation.”