19 August 2023
By Tom Collins
Alstom contract will enable future frequency increases across Mallow, Cobh and Midleton lines, as part of EU funded programme
Iarnród Éireann has awarded a substantial contract of €78.5 million to world leading rail transport company Alstom for a major signalling upgrade project on the Cork commuter rail network, to treble the number of trains which can operate between Cork and Cobh, Midleton and Mallow.
The contract – part of an overall signalling investment of €180 million – will deliver all the Signalling, Electrical and Telecommunications enhancements under the Cork Area Commuter Rail (CACR) Programme, a series of interrelated projects being undertaken by Iarnród Éireann.
The Cork Area Commuter Rail Programme will deliver the heavy rail proposals contained within the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS), developed by the National Transport Authority. Phase 1 of the programme is largely funded under the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (EURRF). The signalling works are set to commence later this year and be complete by mid-2026.
The design and build contract awarded to Alstom will ensure the delivery of a more efficient, sustainable, low-carbon and climate-resilient heavy rail network for the Cork region.
The new signalling solution will:
- facilitate the proposed capacity and service frequency increases, with the potential to treble existing service frequency to a 10-minute frequency on all routes in the future.
- include a new computer-based signalling system across the three main Cork routes, including the Mallow, Cobh and Glounthaune to Midleton Lines.
- improve the reliability of the signalling system and enhance railway safety systems.
- provide the capability of being managed centrally via the new National Train Control Centre at Heuston Station in Dublin, when operational, ensuring a more efficient and resilient service for all rail users.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD welcomed the investment and said ‘The re-signalling of the Cork Commuter rail network will provide for improved service reliability, frequency and capacity benefits, as well as electrified operations in the long-run, helping to transform rail transport for commuters. I was delighted to secure €164m in EU Recovery and Resilience Facility funding for this project in 2021 and am pleased to see continued progress with the awarding of the signalling contract today.
Minister for Finance (and Cork South Central TD) Michael McGrath said: “This is a significant milestone for the commuter rail network in Cork. The investment is one of many planned projects planned to boost Cork’s rail offering and public transport network. Upgrading Corks signalling system is a crucial step forward to facilitate the proposed capacity and service frequency increases planned for the region and will be of considerable benefit to users of the rail network”.
Anne Graham, Chief Executive of the National Transport Authority said “I welcome the progress being made with this project which will pave the way for improvements in rail services in Cork in the years ahead. Investment in rail is a key component in the CMATS strategy, and today’s announcement represents a clear signal of intent on the part of NTA and Iarnród Éireann that delivering for the people of Cork by implementing the Strategy is now the priority.”
Iarnród Éireann Chief Executive Jim Meade said “I commend our Cork Area Commuter Rail team in ensuring that all three elements of the CACR Programme are progressing so swiftly. New signalling, our new platform, and twin-tracking of Glounthaune to Midleton are set to transform the capacity of our Cork Commuter rail network and position us well to move forward with other rail projects under the CMATS strategy, including the critical delivery of new stations.
Alstom Ireland Managing Director, Piers Wood said “By drawing on Alstom’s global experience, innovative technology and working practices, along with a deep understanding of Ireland’s unique context, we are wholly committed to deliver sustainable transport solutions, creating lasting value and making a positive impact for Ireland, its people and the communities we serve, while contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable tomorrow. Through the CACR project, we will revolutionise passenger journeys on key commuter routes in the Cork area, while prioritising sustainability and the environment.”
Cork Area Commuter Rail Programme:
The Cork Area Commuter Rail programme is a transformative rail improvement programme for the Cork rail network. Delivering increased train capacity and frequency, providing for more connected communities and a more sustainable transport network, the project represents the largest ever investment in the Cork network and will deliver the vision set out by the National Transport Authority (NTA) in the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS).
Under CMATS the rail network will be developed to include train frequency and capacity to build to 16 million passenger journeys per annum, support modal shift from the private car and provide a high frequency north-east connection through the city. The Cork Area Commuter Rail Programme is being progressed through a number of separate but interrelated projects which will be delivered in specific work packages.
- The construction of a new through platform at Kent Station to facilitate through running services from Mallow to Cobh/Midleton. The construction contract has been awarded and advanced enabling works have started on site.
- Signalling and communications upgrades will facilitate the proposed capacity and service frequency increases. These works will commence in 2023.
- Upgrading of the Glounthaune to Midleton line to a twin track configuration. The Railway Order for this project was lodged at the end of 2022, with An Bord Pleanála having undertaken an Oral Hearing as part of its assessment of the Railway Order from 26th June to 3th July.
- Work is underway to appoint a multi-disciplinary consultant to complete detailed design and statutory approval for the proposed eight new stations, a new fleet depot, electrification of the network, upgrades to existing stations and associated per way and civil works on the network.
Cork Area Commuter Rail Programme Update:
|Kent Station Through Platform Project||
|Signalling & Communications Project||
|Glounthaune to Midleton Twin-Track Project||
|New Stations, New Fleet Depot, Electrification, Upgrades at existing Stations, Associated Per-Way, Civil & Structural Works||
Phase 1 of the project is largely funded by the European Union Recovery and Resilience Facility, under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP). This investment will provide for the construction of a through-platform at Kent Station, double-tracking between Glounthaune to Midleton, and re-signalling of the network. These projects will facilitate the future electrification of the Cork commuter rail network.
The Plan NRRP was developed to spur a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic supported by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. Ireland is expected to receive €988 million in grants under the Facility.
The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the largest component of NextGenerationEU, the European Union’s response to the global pandemic. The aim is to help repair the immediate economic and social damage brought about by the pandemic and to prepare for a post-Covid Europe that is greener, more digital, more resilient and fit to face the future.