Iarnród Éireann ( Irish Rail) is the national railway system operator of Ireland. Established on 2 February 1987, it is a subsidiary of Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ). It operates all internal intercity, commuter and freight railway services in the Republic of Ireland, and, jointly with Northern Ireland Railways, the Enterprise service between Dublin and Belfast. In 2009, Iarnród Éireann carried 38.8 million passengers, down from 43.3 million in 2008.
At the time of its establishment Iarnród Éireann referred to itself as Irish Rail, and introduced the four rails IR logo; however, the initials "IR" (Irish Rail) were often defaced as "IRA" on signage. The company gradually brought the Irish form of its name to the fore, ultimately introducing its current IÉ corporate branding and logo in 1994. The Irish word iarnród (alternately rendered "bóthar iarainn") translates into English as iron road, or railway. While the name "Irish Rail" was dropped from the logo, it remains part of the official company name ("Iarnród Éireann - Irish Rail") and was revived as the name of the company's online booking service, irishrail.ie, in 2006.
Operationally, services are divided across four regional areas:
Northern and Eastern services are managed from Connolly (including Sligo in the North-West)
Southern and Western services are managed from Heuston
IÉ's passenger services are branded under three main names; InterCity, Commuter and DART.
InterCity services are long-distance routes radiating mainly from Dublin. The Belfast - Dublin service, jointly operated with Northern Ireland Railways, is branded separately as Enterprise. Dublin's two main InterCity stations are Connolly and Heuston. Intercity services run to/from County Cork, County Limerick, County Kerry, County Clare, County Galway, County Waterford, Rosslare Europort, County Sligo, Westport, County Wexford and Ballina. Dublin's third major station, Pearse, is the terminus for much of the suburban network in the Greater Dublin area. An additional InterCity service runs from Limerick to Waterford and Rosslare Europort, although this is currently operated by Commuter railcars.
A new service began on 31 March 2010 from County Limerick to County Galway, as part of the Western Rail Corridor, a reopening of a long-closed line.
The majority of Commuter services are based in Dublin, which has four commuter routes: Northern (Dundalk), Western (Maynooth/Longford), South Western (Newbrid-ge/Kildare/Portlaoise) and South Eastern (Arklow). The Cork Suburban Rail currently has three Commuter services: to Mallow and Cobh, and a third service to Midleton which became operational on a part of the disused Youghal branch line on 30 July 2009. Limerick Suburban Rail currently consists of two lines to Ennis and Nenagh, with shuttle services to Limerick Junction. A Commuter service is planned for Galway to Oranmore and Athenry.
Commuter trains also operate on shuttle duty for branches from the main InterCity services from Mallow to Tralee (off the Dublin - Cork route) and from Manulla Junction to Ballina (off the Dublin - Westport route), as well as acting as InterCity trains for Dublin - Rosslare and some Dublin - Sligo services, and as the aforementioned Limerick - Rosslare Europort service.
The north-south route along Dublin's eastern coastal side is also host to DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit), Ireland's only electrified heavy-rail service. The Dart consists of many classes, the most famous one being the 8100 class which still operate, now refurbished.
IÉ also has responsibility for running freight services on the Irish network through its Iarnród Éireann Freight division - although this has been declining at a rapid rate, and as of 2010 there are only 4x freight flows left running through out the country. This operates both railfreight trains, and a network of road haulage through various distribution nodes throughout the country. Iarnród Éireann Freight is subdivided into four sections:
Bulk Freight - specialises in operating full train loads of freight, usually bulk movements of single products such as cement, mineral ore or timber.
Navigator - the freight forwarding division, particularly associated with the transport of automotive stock parts.
Roadliner - the road haulage division, responsible for both its own in-house fleet and privately contracted operators.
Fastrack - the same day mail delivery service.
The Enterprise route (Dublin to Belfast) is well regarded, despite occasional problems over punctuality. These problems are primarily capacity related as the route is only double track and serves both local and intermediate commuter as well as intercity traffic. Hence any delay has knock on effects. Also there is limited platform availability at Con-nolly station in Dublin. There is also a persistent problem with engine overloading, as Enterprise locos t also supply coach power (unlike the southern and western routes, where power is provided by separate generator vans).
The Cork-Dublin route is also well regarded. It was formerly the "premier line" of the Great Southern and Western Railway, one of the biggest pre-CIE operators. Rolling stock is quite good on this route, with new Mark 4 rolling stock complete with DVTs for faster turn around now in service. Class 22000 DMUs from South Korea came into service from early 2009 replacing older coaching stock on most other InterCity routes. These 183 carriages are by the company as the "Greenest trains in Europe".
The Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey had announced recently that an additional 51 railcars have been ordered for the company. These carriages are being planned on services between Dublin, Louth and Meath. They will come into service by 2011/2012.
There have been incidents on the Dublin - Sligo line, concerning delays.
There have been a number of serous incidents on the Dublin - Waterford which have led to serious delays between 4 and 5 hours on a number of oceasons.
The maximum speed of the intercity trains on the Irish rail network is 160 km/h (100 mph).
Although the majority of Iarnród Éireann's stations are simply named after the towns they serve, a number of stations in major towns and cities were renamed in 1966 after leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 as a "suffix" - contrary to normal European practice where such namings are generally used only when there are two or more stations in a town or city:
Dún Laoghaire Mallin
Drogheda Mac Bride
Sligo Mac Diarmada
IÉ's Network Catering unit provided a trolley service of food and drink, a snack car and (on some routes) a restaurant service. It also operates a restaurant at Dún Laoghaire. According to Irish Rail's annual report, the unit lost €270,000 in 2004. Early in 2006, IÉ advertised for private catering contractors to take over the operation of its catering services. The service was taken over by RailGourmet in March 2007, who promptly raised prices of most items.