Córas Iompair Éireann, or CIÉ, is a statutory corporation of the Irish state, answerable to the Irish Government and responsible for most public transport in the Republic of Ireland and, jointly with its Northern Ireland counterpart, the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company, between the Republic and Northern Ireland. The company is headquartered at Heuston Station, Dublin. It is a statutory corporation whose members (the Board) are appointed by the Minister for Transport.


Since the enactment of the Transport (Re-organisation of Córas Iompair Éireann) Act, 1986 CIÉ has been the holding company for Bus Éireann - Irish Bus, Bus Átha Cliath - Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann - Irish Rail, the three largest internal transport companies in Ireland. It was originally to operate the Luas tram system in Dublin, but that project was transferred to the newly created Railway Procurement Agency.

CIÉ's services are provided through the three operating companies:

Dublin Bus provides bus services in the Greater Dublin area, including most bus services within Dublin city and the former County Dublin.

Bus Éireann provides intercity and regional bus services outside Dublin city and county and from Dublin to the rest of the country. It also operates the city buses in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Galway and a number of other small urban bus systems.

Iarnród Éireann operates InterCity and Commuter trains, and together with NI Railways it operates the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise train.

CIÉ is responsible for the overall strategy of the group. It owns all fixed assets used by the three companies such as railway lines and stations, dealt with through the Group Property division. It also operates the international tour division, CIÉ Tours International. The vast number of advertising sites are organised through Commuter Advertising Network (CAN), since the mid-1990s employing an external company (currently CBS Advertising) to manage them. There are also a number of shared services to the three companies provided by CIÉ.

Except on the railways CIÉ is not a complete monopoly, as a number of other operators exist, but under the Transport Act 1932 they cannot compete directly with CIÉ on routes for which it has a licence.

1944: "The Flying Snail"

Córas Iompair Éireann was formed as a private company by the Transport Act 1944 and incorporated the Great Southern Railways Company and Dublin United Transport Company, adopting the logo of the latter company, "the flying snail". Great Southern Railways was incorporated in 1925, having been Great Southern Railway since 1924. It was essentially a monopoly on transport as it started to broaden its business interests into road transport. The Transport Act 1950 amalgamated CIÉ and the Grand Canal Company and formally nationalised CIÉ, changing its structure from a private limited company to a board appointed by the Minister for Transport. The Northern Ireland Great Northern Railway Act, 1958 transferred the lines of Great Northern Railway Board south of the border to CIÉ.

Until 1986 CIÉ operated as a single legal entity, although it was internally organised into rail services and two bus divisions - Dublin City Services and Provincial Services. The vast majority of services were branded CIÉ, although long distance provincial buses were branded "Expressway" and Dublin electric trains DART. In 1987 CIÉ was reorganised into a holding company and three operating companies. In 1990 it sold its nine Great Southern Hotels to Aer Rianta, the airports authority, including the hotel in Derry.

Financial losses and the future:

CIÉ was established to provide road and railway transport, and later took on some of the canals and ports. It was empowered as both a provider and a licensor of other providers.

For most of its existence it made large losses, particularly the railways division, and this caused the public and politicians to demand "make CIÉ pay". Thus, similar to the pattern in many countries, Ireland's railways were rationalised and faced severe cutbacks while the road division was expanded.

Current government policy is that CIÉ should be abolished, with the three individual companies focusing on their own business areas and thus increasing competitiveness. Despite this, legislation to enact this change had not been published by 2008. In the meantime, the biggest change to CIÉ's operational structure since 1987 will come with the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority, which will have powers over CIÉ's operations in the Greater Dublin Area. The Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 also gives the Minister for Transport instead of the chairman of CIÉ the power to appoint the directors of the subsidiary companies.